Agriculture Bill must deliver unwavering commitment to farming and crofting or face failure

Scottish Government must quickly fill alarming policy void faced by farmers and crofters to restore confidence levels

NFU Scotland is calling for an immediate, clear, and unwavering commitment from Scottish Government that future policy, as defined by the Agriculture Bill, will underpin agricultural activity and Scotland’s iconic food and drink sector.

In its 55-page response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on a new Agriculture Bill that will define Scottish agricultural policy from 2025 onwards, the Union has issued the stark warning that if the pursuit of a misplaced vision is all that matters to Scottish Government, then Scotland’s future ‘agricultural support’ policy will fail.

While the consultation is largely about delivering the necessary powers for a new policy via a new Bill, it has failed to fill the alarming policy void that farmers and crofters currently face. Uncertainty over support levels and new schemes from 2025 onwards is simply compounding the severe volatility and extreme uncertainty already affecting so many producers in Scotland.

As a result, and in the disappointing absence of any specific policy options from the Scottish Government, NFU Scotland has used the consultation to set out its current and clear preferences as to how the future support framework can best be used to ensure sustainable and profitable farm business drive agricultural activity and production – thereby ensuring there will be no contradiction between high quality food production and producing it in a way that delivers for climate, nature and rural communities.  

Author of the response from NFU Scotland, Director of Policy Jonnie Hall said: “The context and validity of Scottish Government’s vision for agriculture has changed dramatically. Its vision has been rapidly overtaken by circumstances that are severely challenging future food security. Spiralling costs are eroding confidence on Scotland’s farms and crofts. What they need, and what the proposals in the Bill fail to properly deliver, is clarity on how they will be supported in the future.

“Agricultural production must be front and centre of any vision for Scottish agriculture, or indeed any vision for land use in Scotland, and the policy intended to deliver that vision. That message was delivered loud and clear to Scotland’s politicians when hundreds of farmers and crofters joined the #FoodNeedsAFarmer rally outside Holyrood last month. Ensuring sustainable and profitable agricultural businesses is the only route to delivering all required outcomes. 

“Climate, nature, and wider rural development issues must be addressed, but policies cannot and will not be successful if they disregard the needs of Scottish agriculture. Farmers and crofters need a future support regime in Scotland that supports agricultural output together with practical measures to help cut emissions and enhance biodiversity. The new Agriculture Bill, and how its powers are used, must enable this but detail on how that will be achieved is severely lacking.

“We welcome and support the intended shift to a new four-tier structure of future support, a structure initiated by the Union in the publication of our ‘Steps to Change’ document in March 2018. However, the Scottish Government must be clearer as to how and to what degree ‘conditionality’ will be attached to the direct support elements of Tiers 1 and 2, and what shares of total funding will be allocated to these direct payments Tiers. Equally, questions remain over the scope, function, and content of the indirect support of Tiers 3 and 4 – including their shares overall funding and their means to target support to best effect. 

“Disappointingly, some proposals for the new Agriculture Bill set out a route towards increasing layers of additional red tape and additional costs in the pursuit of goals that may add little or nothing to the bottom line of too many agricultural businesses already facing extreme financial pressures. Exposing this generation of farmers and crofters to greater levels of bureaucracy would be a big step backwards.

“It is only with the buy-in of farmers and crofters across Scotland can new primary legislation turn policies into practices that deliver on high quality food production, climate mitigation and adaptation, nature restoration and wider rural development – simultaneously. It is the duty of the Scottish Government to help make that happen.” 

Notes for editors

  • A copy of the executive summary of NFU Scotland’s submission to Scottish Government on the Agriculture Bill proposals is attached.
  • A copy of the full (55 page) submission is available on request from 


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 103/22

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About The Author

Bob Carruth

A dairy farmer’s son, I joined NFU Scotland in 1999 after 13 years as an agricultural journalist. Following spells as a regional manager and policy lead on milk, livestock and animal health and welfare, I became Communications Director in 2008.

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