The Scottish region of the National Sheep Association (NSA) has said it is glad that the Scottish livestock sector’s “long wait for clarity” is over with the publication of the Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill.

Last week, the Scottish government tabled the new bill to change how farmers and rural communities receive support in Scotland.

The draft Agriculture and Rural Communities Bill would allow the Scottish government to form a new support framework and provide financial and other assistance.

The payments framework would incentivise low-carbon approaches to improve resilience, efficiency and probability in the sector.

NSA Scottish Region said it welcomes the Scottish government’s approach to enabling low carbon, efficient, productive, resilient farming businesses – but hopes that, as the detail of the bill becomes clearer, it is not the case that “policymakers have been blinded by low carbon only and failed to recognise that food production will never be emission-free”.

NSA Scottish Region coordinator, Grace Reid, said: “NSA Scottish Region is keen to see a farm approach that recognises that agricultural businesses plan years ahead.

“The direction of policy and future support schemes need to be transparent, so sheep farmers know what is coming in the long-term and feel appreciated for the critical work they carry out on a daily basis.

“Businesses have had to operate in the dark while we wait for this bill and we need transparency and a clear sense of direction as we proceed from here.”

Reid said the NSA has a duty to protect the “positive practices” in which its flocks already deliver for the wider environment.

“Keeping food and farming at the centre of all future policy decisions is imperative, ensuring the environment is prioritised through farming rather than replacing it,” she said.

“Our future generations will look back at this opportunity to change legislation and it is vital we do not compromise their ability to deliver sustainable food production, enhance the resilience of farming practices and meet environmental and climate change goals.”

A ‘practical approach’

The NSA Scottish Region said a key priority for the association is that the implemented powers and policy of the bill are fair, simplistic, easy to understand and have a “practical approach”.
“Following the two Scottish government consultations, which NSA Scottish Region responded to in full, we will now begin to look in detail at what is included within this bill and engage with our sheep farming members on its content,” Reid said.

“I urge all members to take part in the next phase of public participation, which has promised to provide a way to help design and develop the new framework included within the Agricultural Reform Programme.

“Topics such as changes to the 2025 Basic Payment Scheme, Whole Farm Plan, regions and measures are to be covered.”