Agriculture Policy Development Group: terms of reference

Terms of reference for the Agricultural Policy Development Group (APDG).


Purpose and scope

This Government was elected on a manifesto that made the following commitments:

  • we will support farmers to produce more of our own food needs sustainably and to farm and croft with nature, including through enhanced animal welfare and health approaches and better adoption and deployment of technology and innovation, as recommended by the recent work of farmer-led groups set up in the last parliament. A single implementation board with representation from all farming sectors and types will be established to drive this work forward
  • the Scottish Government (SG) is committed to early action on implementing measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture to address the twin crises of climate and nature/loss of biodiversity, and was tasked with developing a National Test Programme (NTP), based on the work of the farmer led groups
  • the Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board (ARIOB) was formed to assist the SG in its development and implementation of policies to support agriculture in becoming more economically and environmentally sustainable
  • the SG is committed to a service design approach to policy making involving user-centred development. Therefore, in agreement with ARIOB, the SG has established the Agriculture Policy Development Group (APDG).  Its primary purpose is to take objectives and high-level requirements as they emerge and support the SG to work up the detail of policy, rules and services for the ARIOB to consider ahead of that wider engagement with stakeholders to which the SG is committed


Membership of the APDG is formed of stakeholders appointed for their experience and expertise in the agricultural and environmental sectors and SG officials across both policy and operational sectors. The membership will likely change as the programme of work advances and new topics require to be addressed.

Stakeholders appointed to the APDG are:

  • Jonathan Hall (NFUS)
  • Vicki Swales (RSPB Scotland)
  • Ian Davidson (independent)

Governance and accountability

The APDG is chaired by SG officials.

Proposals to the ARIOB for their thoughts and insight will be as far as possible, by a consensus agreement, failing which the APDG should indicate that consensus was not possible and provide options for consideration. 

All APDG’s proposals to the ARIOB will require to satisfy any legal, Scottish Public Finance Manual and mandated best practice obligations by which the SG is required to abide in the implementation of its policies and the design of services.

Terms of engagement

Each member of the APDG will bring their own experience to discussions. It is expected that all members will be mindful of the different approaches each member may have, listen carefully to understand, and be tolerant of different views and perspectives, even if they do not agree with them. It is expected that members will treat each other, and officials providing support to the APDG, with respect, courtesy and dignity at all times, both in, and outwith APDG meetings. 

Discussions will be held under Chatham House rules which allows for members to reference discussions outwith the APDG and its membership, but not to attribute any aspect to an individual. 


Membership of the APDG is on a voluntary basis. Members will not receive any remuneration for participation, but are eligible to be reimbursed for any reasonable out of pocket expenses incurred in consequence of their participation in APDG functions.

Timescales, frequency and location of meetings

Meetings will normally take place monthly, in between ARIOB meetings, in order to both take on board feedback from these meetings and to provide timely updates to them.

In light of both COVID-19 restrictions and the likely geographical spread of the membership, the group will meet virtually.

Support to the group

The group will be supported by SG officials. This includes access to analytical advice via the SG’s Rural and Environmental Science and Analytical Services (RESAS), and officials from both policy and operational teams, including rural payments and inspections, and digital and information systems teams, working jointly within a managed programme of work. These teams will draw on expertise from other organisations within the sector as the work demands. This managed process of policy and delivery design and planning working with APDG stakeholder members will ensure the final outcome meets the needs of the sector and delivers on Government’s objectives.


Reflecting the working nature of the APDG, the group’s advice will be documented through notes from the meetings, the summary points and proposals of which will be submitted to the ARIOB for consideration and which will support the SG in its formulation of policy development. 

These TOR will be updated as required going forward.

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