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Examination of Witnesses

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 13th February 2020.

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Jonnie Hall:

I support that, in the sense that area-based payments are far too blunt and do not deliver the objectives that we all aspire to, not only in supporting agricultural incomes and productivity but in addressing challenges such as climate change, biodiversity and so on. The sooner we move to an approach that is more action- based than area-based, the better. However, we are in alignment with the Scottish Government in the sense that from 2021 onwards, we will be venturing into uncharted territory in many ways, given the changes in our operating environment, trading issues and other areas. The ability to retain direct income support that offers some stability in the interim is key. We are absolutely in alignment about change, but the key questions are about the pace of that change and how we manage it.

We note with interest what is happening in England and the Bill’s proposals for phasing out direct support. Of course, that would be inappropriate and inapplicable in a Scottish context, so we need the devolved capacity to do things differently. The direction of travel is very much the same and the landing space is probably the same as well, but we have to consider the pace of that change and recognise the challenges and issues that are particularly pertinent to Scottish agriculture.