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Union Encouraged by Scotland Bill Measures on Improving Communication Between Governments

NFU Scotland is encouraged that the UK Government’s Command Paper recognises Lord Smith’s recommendation that transparency and communication should be improved between governments, and will engage further with the process to see how this could be developed to ensure better representation at an EU level in future negotiations.

The Command Paper also outlines that the governments of the UK will continue to work together to investigate possible changes to food standards and levies. Revision of the legal and practical arrangements for levy-raising is an issue that has been considered by NFUS for a long time, so is a discussion that will be closely watched.

Within the Bill’s clauses is the proposed devolution of the responsibility for the management of Crown Estate asset. This is an intriguing proposal and NFUS will shortly be meeting with the Secretary of State for Scotland as well as Scotland’s Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary to gain clarity on what implications, if any, this may have on our farming members who are tenants of the Crown Estate.

NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller commented: “The headline changes follow the roadmap developed by Lord Smith. It takes devolution to a new level and with the transfer of powers over income tax provides a powerful tool for Scottish politicians to drive both the economy and social justice.

“As a political compromise the Smith Commission package will disappoint some on both sides of the independence divide but in the timescales allowed it is a real achievement that will change Scotland. After a year when the political atmosphere has been charged with energy it’s up to all parties to make the new powers work. For many businesses it is now important that this new settlement provides a platform of stability with a focus on jobs investment and for our members in a growing food and drink sector.

“Behind the headlines of transfer of powers to Holyrood there is unfinished business. The imperative of transparent UK policy development and representation at EU and international levels; the fair distribution of European agricultural budgets reflecting the new area payment and still unresolved issues around red meat levies. These issues have been recognised by Lord Smith. They must be tackled by ministers on both sides of the border to diffuse tension and demonstrate that the UK can work for all.”

NFUS Parliamentary Officer, Clare Slipper commented: “NFUS saw 2014 as a year of unprecedented political engagement, and suggests that the wheels of the devolution discussion will not stop moving with this Bill. Indeed, we are heading into the General Election period, which could potentially see the political fabric of the UK change as new political groups emerge.

“In Scotland, changes in leadership will bring new debates to the floor and we must also remember that Scottish Parliamentary elections will take place in 2016. Conversations on Scotland’s future, and indeed the future constitution of the UK as a whole, will be a key battleground in both of these election processes.

“For NFU Scotland members, the independence debate was an opportune moment to bring key rural issues into the fore and we were overwhelmed with the level of interest and engagement that was shown by farmers and crofters up and down Scotland.

“Now, we consider it vital that Scottish and UK Ministers – whatever their politics – co-operate to bring forward the best package of legislation that will bring powers back into the hands of Scottish people and will secure the future of Scotland’s vibrant farming and food and drink industry.”

Ends

Contact Ruth McClean on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 13/15


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