NFU Scotland has called on agricultural support arrangements to be separated from a new UK approach to subsidy control.

Following the end of the transition period on December 31, 2020, the UK has the freedom to design a new domestic subsidy control regime that reflects strategic interests and particular national circumstances.

Interim subsidy control arrangements under the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) came into force on January 1, 2021 and broadly mirror the EU’s State Aid rules, and the UK Government is currently consulting on future arrangements.

NFU Scotland recognises the UK government wants a subsidy control system that promotes the wide range of benefits that can be derived from subsidies while limiting the most harmful impacts.

In its response, the union supports facilitating interventions to deliver on the UK’s strategic interests; maintaining a competitive and dynamic market economy; protecting the UK internal market; and acting as a responsible trade partner.

However, NFU Scotland has significant concerns about financial support to deliver agricultural and rural development policy goals being subject to the proposed regime, and so believes they should remain separate.

The primary concern for the union relates to the potential impact on agricultural policy development and implementation in Scotland, as this is a devolved issue.

‘Different needs and circumstances’

NFU Scotland Director of Policy, Jonnie Hall said: “Agricultural and rural development policy is a devolved area for very good reason.

It must reflect different needs and circumstances, and our concern is that these subsidy control proposals could significantly constrain that.

“In our view, agricultural and rural development financial support must be kept separate from the subsidy control regime being proposed.

“Financial support within agricultural and rural development policy remains absolutely critical if a vast array of policy objectives are to be met in the public interest – including producing food to the highest standards whilst helping meet climate and biodiversity challenges,” he added.

“Agricultural policy is devolved, and that should not be eroded via a backdoor of UK-wide subsidy control measures.

“We fully accept that, in the context of the UK’s internal market, devolved support arrangements must not distort competition or trade within the UK.

“NFU Scotland is clear that the integrity of the UK internal market must not be undermined by excessive divergence in support payments.

However, there are already clear safeguards in place internationally through the WTO Agreement on Agriculture and nationally through the UK’s Agricultural Support Framework to prevent this happening.

“As a result, NFU Scotland is unequivocal that agricultural and rural development financial support must be kept separate from the subsidy control regime being proposed,” he concluded.