I was pleased to attend the Second Reading debate on this important Bill earlier this month, in support of the Bill and its provisions, which will put the preservation of our environment at the centre of the United Kingdom’s post-Brexit agriculture policy.
The UK Government’s Agriculture Bill strikes broadly the right balance between protecting the environment, promoting food production, and providing for a vibrant, flourishing rural economy and environment after our exit from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.
Here in Scotland, agriculture is a devolved matter, so responsibility for our post-Brexit agriculture policy rests with the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood. Unfortunately, the SNP-led Scottish Government have decided to exclude Scotland from most of the UK-wide Agriculture Bill, so Scotland would be the only part of the United Kingdom where its main provisions would not apply.
I am disappointed by this decision, and even more concerned that the SNP have failed to bring forward their own alternative plan for Scottish agriculture. This has left Scottish farmers and rural communities, as well as all Scots who treasure our rural environment, in the dark as to what Scotland’s agricultural support system is going to look like after Brexit – and what, if any, provisions it will include for protecting our environment.
The Scottish Government’s decision is deeply irresponsible and exposes the SNP’s neglect of rural Scotland. This is why I, and my Scottish Conservative colleagues, have called on the Scottish Government to end this uncertainty. Rural Scotland deserves clarity as soon as possible as to whether the Scottish Government is going to give them, and Scotland’s world-famous natural environment, the support it needs after Brexit.