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Rural Economy Secretary sets the direction and shape for agricultural support

By David Porter

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Speaking at his annual address at the National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS) AGM this week Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has set out proposals for legislation on the protection of livestock, proposals for a green recovery and provided farmers and crofters with financial clarity by setting out the payment strategy for 2021.

After a tumultuous year with coronavirus and Brexit uncertainty, Mr Ewing laid out the key role that farmers and crofters will play in managing Scotland’s environment and landscape along with being part of the climate solution.

To give them the certainty to plan ahead, he provided assurance around finances by committing to another run of The National Basic Payment Support Scheme with loan payments starting in September 2021.

The Member’s Bill currently being taken forward will increase the maximum available penalties for anyone who allows their dog to attack livestock as well as improving enforcement powers for the Police.

Amendments lodged will seek to bring penalties into line with those recently increased for wildlife crime.

A timetable has been outlined which shows farm payments for schemes in Scotland
A timetable has been outlined which shows farm payments for schemes in Scotland

Mr Ewing said: “We have had a difficult year with the dual threats of the pandemic and Brexit.

"We must ensure that our recovery from this is a green one and a safe one.

"Scotland is proud of our world-leading climate change commitments and I am asking farmers and crofters to work with the Scottish Government to deliver the vision of a more sustainable future that we share. We have established the farmer-led groups to provide advice on developing new schemes and approaches to support low carbon and sustainable farming.

“Through these groups, excellent progress is being made in our shared desire to ensure that farming and food production picks-up the pace in taking action to help cut emissions.

"The Suckler Beef Climate Group Programme Board are working deliver on the recommendations made last year.

"Getting the details right, notably in enrolment, data gathering, monitoring and measuring emission reductions, is not a simple task.

“We will continue to support farmers, crofters and land managers to play their part in cutting emissions, addressing climate change as well as delivering wider bio-diversity and environmental benefits.

“I have set out our timetable for when we aim to start making payments through our Payment Strategy for 2021, providing financial support and certainty needed to continue their work and support our wider rural economy.

"It is important to note that we set this strategy with confidence that we will meet these timelines but there are some risks to delivery that remain.

"But we will do everything we can to ensure farmers and crofters get their support payments on time, as we have done this year.

“Farming and crofting remain the heart of rural Scotland and anything we can do to provide security and assurance to farmers we will do. Livestock worrying has been a longstanding concern and one many farmers have raised with me when we have met.

"We take this matter very seriously and these amendments send a very strong signal from this government that people who allow their dogs to worry and harm livestock will face the full weight of the law if found guilty of doing so.”

The Minister for Rural Affairs and Natural Environment indicated in the recent Parliamentary debate, the Scottish Government supports a further increase to the proposed penalties and will be lodging an amendment today to set the maximum available penalty at 12 months imprisonment, a fine of £40,000, or both.

This will be consistent with recent increased penalties for wildlife crime and will allow courts to impose an appropriate sentence depending on the facts and circumstances of the individual case.

The Government will also support amendments to ensure it is Police Scotland who will remain the investigating authority for attacks on livestock.

The five farmer-led groups set up over the past year are developing recommendations on how to how to cut emissions and tackle climate change and each group will report to the Scottish Government.

The farmer-led groups and their Chairs are as follows:

Suckler Beef Climate Change Group programme board – chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism and Jim Walker

Dairy Sector Climate Change Group – chaired by Jackie McCreery

Pig Sector Group – co-chaired by Andy McGowan and Marion McCormack

Arable Climate Change Group – chaired by Andrew Moir

Hill, Upland and Crofting Climate Change Group – co-chaired by Joyce Campbell and Martin Kennedy

2021 Payments Strategy commencement timetable-

National BPS Loan Scheme - September 2021.

BPS / Greening / Young Farmer Payment - December 2021.

SSBSS (Mainland & Island) - April 2022.

SUSSS - May 2022.

LFASS - January 2022.

AECS - March 2022.

FGS - March 2022.

Rural Priorities - March 2022.

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