Publication - Minutes

ARD Stakeholder Group minutes: December 2020

Published: 8 Feb 2021
Date of meeting: 3 Dec 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the ARD (agriculture and rural development) Stakeholder Group held on 3 December 2020.

Published:
8 Feb 2021
ARD Stakeholder Group minutes: December 2020

Attendees and apologies

Attendees

  • Grace Reid, NSA Scotland
  • Eleanor Kay, Scottish Land and Estates
  • Ian Muirhead, Agriculture Industries Confederation
  • Neil Wilson, Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers (IAAS)
  • Patrick Krause, Scottish Crofting Federation
  • Pete Ritchie, Nourish Scotland
  • Ross Macleod, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust
  • Steven Thomson, SRUC
  • Stephen Young, Scottish Land and Estates
  • Mags Granger, RSABI
  • Mark Aitken, Scottish Environment Protection Agency
  • Tim Bailey, SAOS
  • Vicki Swales, RSPB and Environment LINK
  • David Michie, Soil Association
  • Julian Pace, Scottish Enterprise
  • Keith Matthews, The James Hutton Institute
  • Sarah Millar, QMS
  • Maria De La Torre, Nature Scot
  • Jamie Farquhar, Confederation of Forest Industries
  • Paul Flanagany, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board
  • Nina Clancy, RSABI
  • Martin Morgan, Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers
  • Keith Matthews, The James Hutton Institute
  • Jonathan Hal, NFUS
  • Andy McGowan, SAMWH
  • John Raven, Historic Environment Scotland
  • James Bruhn, Historic Environment Scotland
  • Jeremy Mood, CAAV
  • Katrina Barclay, RHASS
  • Debs Roberts, SOPA
  • Neil Wilson, IAAS
  • Christopher Nicholson, STFA
  • Dave Miller, The James Hutton Insittiute
  • John Fletcher, Deer Vet
  • Ross Lilley, Nature Scot
  • Serafin Pazos-Vidal, COSLA
  • Robin Clarke, Highlands and Islands Enterprise
  • Drew Ratter, Semi-retired Crofter and Investment Committee of Shetland Charitable Trust (Chairman)
  •  

Internal:

  • John Kerr, Head of Agricultural Policy Division (Chair)
  • Jen Willoughby, Head of National and International Regulatory Alignment
  • Emma Glen, CAP Policy Team (Secretariat)
  • Shirley Graham, SRDP Policy Team
  • Brendan Callaghan, Head of Operational Delivery, Scottish Forestry
  • Marcus MacKenzie, RPID : Strategic Planning and Operational Performance
  • Tracy McIntyre, Deputy Director RPID
  • Sheetal Mehra, RPID    
  • James Muldoon, Head of Agriculture Support Policy Development Unit
  • Brian Nisbet, ARE EU EXIT Unit – Policy Team Leader
  • Kirsten Beddows, Head of Agriculture Transformation for Environment and Climate Change
  • Mary Ferry, Head of Delivery Management
  • Harriet Houlsby, Assistant Economist
  • Derek Wilson, Head of Agriculture Transformation in Productivity Unit
  • Nicola Kerr, SLR: Future Rural Policy Frameworks, Land Use and J Land Reform
  • Ian Cowe, Grants Delivery Officer, Scottish Forestry
  • Rowan Stanforth, DCCD: Policy and Implementation Unit
  • David Mallon, Head of Unit, Climate Change Division
  • Peter Philips, Head of Natural Capital Land Management Policy
  • Scott Sayers, Senior Policy Officer
  • John Brownlee, Senior Policy Adviser
  • Richard Haw, Economic Adviser
  • Alice Hunter, Head of Regional Land Use Partnerships Policy
  • Joanna Storer, Policy Officer
  • Lynne Stewart, Futures Development Team Lead

Items and actions

Welcome and minutes from the previous meeting

Everyone was welcomed to the meeting and the minutes from the previous meeting were approved. It was noted that the final action point outstanding, checklists for contingency planning, are almost finalised and will be issued shortly.

AP:

  • publish minutes from October meeting 

CAP simplification and improvement

A number of simplifications and improvements have been brought forward and announced publicly. The first of these is inspections and penalties. As this was covered in the written update rather than go through the points specifically a pause was taken for questions.
Hopefully people see the points as welcome changes and note that announcements south of the border also mention some changes here, so there is some parallel. 

It was noted that the SG have also committed to do a review of greening. 

A stakeholder queried whether there was any further update on capping – it was confirmed that work had been done here, however the focus over the autumn had been inspections and penalties in order to get this out into the public domain. The team are now looking at capping proposals and having discussions internally about what levels of capping could look like. Word from the treasury around funding is changing the focus of this. 

A stakeholder then asked how crop diversification scrapping was linked to public value for the public purse? When SG discussed the removal of this it was in the context of it being a measure which was not delivering public value. The European auditors felt the same. We can come back to this when we talk about the Suckler Beef work.

Farming and Food Production Future Policy Group. 

A written update was provided in advance of the meeting and a stakeholder queried, that given Mr Ewing’s statement yesterday where he set out fairly clearly how he feels things should go, how would this leave the future policy group – have decisions already been taken?

It was clarified that this ties into work of the future policy group, it is running ahead of that as it is not necessarily taking place at the time we’re bringing forward our climate change plan where the pace requires us to take action before 2024 – which is when we intend to have future policy set.

The FFP-FPG report is hopefully nearing the stage where the group are able sign off the next version of the report. They received quite a bit of substantial additions and are working through them. The understanding is that it will set out a framework for future development and we are very much heading in the direction of travel which the FFP-FPG is setting out. 

Brexit and frameworks

Common frameworks have now completed the phase 3 review and are going to the monitoring committee next week for formal approval to that they’re in place for the end of the year. SG are still waiting to hear if there will be a deal or not but at the moment are preparing for a no deal still. 

A stakeholder requested more detail on frameworks and it was confirmed that until they are agreed there won’t be any publication. The detail must remain closed at the moment. Once agreed we believe these will be shared and stakeholders will know the routes they have to take. If anyone then has any feedback this can be sent in and Brian will liaise with the policy team. 

A stakeholder then queried whether there had been update from DAERA or DEFRA on the trade of sheep to Northern Ireland. It was confirmed that this has been raised on behalf of the industry by NFUS and officials are working hard in the background. We have not yet got a resolved position that all will be well, in fact we are quite concerned. The intention is to write a letter to Mr Eustice, to ensure he is aware of the impact of this issue and then following up with an inter-ministerial group meeting. 

It was also raised whether the spending review announced yesterday covered the equivalent of LEADER – Mr Ewing covered this at the REC Committee yesterday. We are continuing to press the UK Govt on the future of LEADER funding. No clarity on this so far which makes things difficult in terms of planning.

A stakeholder then queried what the final date that Brexit can be agreed to allow it to get through parliament. It was confirmed as the 17th of December. 

UK Internal Market Bill 

This has just gone through House of Lords where significant changes were made. Its now back with the commons and we expect there to be a bit of back and forth here. Additionally, Mike Russell has now written to the Secretary of State, particularly about the level of subsidies in the bill. We feel that frameworks could accommodate the differences.

The Internal Market bill provides Westminster with powers which it wouldn’t have if we were to remain in Europe, which cuts across what the frameworks allowed. This is why we’re resisting it. 

For 2021 treasury have set out what we’re expected to receive funding wise. Similarly they’ve given us an indication of ongoing budgets. They’ve set out that we should expect similar levels of funding for the lifetime of this parliament and there is no indication we will be constrained. The position at present is that we have devolved competence and roughly the same amount of money. 

A stakeholder echoed what had just been said. The draft ag support framework makes specific reference to ag support and the influence on the internal market. If there’s a fizzing out of direct support in England but Scotland continues then it’s thought there will be people crying foul. This will put into question how we are able to support farmers and crofters in Scotland but England cannot.

Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 updates

Pillar 1

After the announcement that the Cab Sec has made I want to highlight we’re making good progress. CAP payments commenced earlier than 2019. Just want to recognise  the good work the team has made. Basic payment scheme, greening and young farmer payments are all on track to commence in Dec 2020. We’re getting money out there, working from home has impacted in various ways but we’re on track to complete our land based inspections – earlier than any year previously. 
Loan scheme closed 30 Nov and payments again commenced early for that. 

A stakeholder queried whether it would be possible to see that the picture looks like in 2020 -  where the money goes / what it does / to which farmers and which sectors? When it comes to conditionality this will allow us to ensure value for money.

It was stated that Hutton undertook the analysis of this in 2018 so it could be updated pretty easily.

AP:

  • SG to take away and consider how this data and what data could be provided/discuss with RESAS

Pillar 2

The payment strategy was announced in a parliamentary statement in early November. Details for dates are provided in the update paper that was issued before the meeting. The RDOC meeting, oversight of pillar schemes, met in November and we will now be able to provide this group with an update on how the schemes are performing.

AP

  • update on scheme performance to be circulated

SSI’s for LFASS and SRDP were laid in November, with the date for both of these coming into force as the 1st of January. 

There are some concerns over the level of funding we’ll receive from treasury over the coming years. Caution from ministers over announcing multi-year funding, which is position for AECS, working closely with ministers given the developing financial position. Not ready to announce an AECS round for 2021 yet but can’t give any indication of when this would be given budgetary uncertainties. 

A stakeholder felt that it was a pity that the organic scheme got bunged up in AECS debate. Organic support has been going on consistently great deal of benefit, amount of gain here but discouraging that there’s a hiatus here and everything else is moving ahead. Querying whether this could be delivered through a different mechanism

It was confirmed that options are being considered at the moment to bring forward to ministers but we are unable to say too much about this currently as its relatively sensitive. Will record comments and play them back into the discussions.

James then provided an update on the fact along with Wales and NI, we are contesting the methodology around how treasury have provided funding. If you haven’t see the letter the level we are contesting is £170 million and very much ties in with why we are unable to commit to future multi-year schemes. 

We have fundamental disagreement with UKG on how the SRDP budget has been broken down leaving £15m per annum shortfall. Next part is committed spend which comes up to £33m over the next four years. We are of the opinion that this is breaching the UKG commitment that we wouldn’t lose out on leaving the EU.

Finally, is BEW money, we are seeking further commitment from the UKG and we have secured a UKG line that they will engage in collaborative discussion. We are seeking to widen this to funding methodology. 

Further discussions with Wales and NI as to the next steps we’ll be taking. Cab Sec quite eager to ensure that these issues are understood by stakeholders as we seek to ensure UKG is pressured on these matters. 

AP:

  • James to provide a written note of this to the group

Climate change plan

The intention originally was to lay the climate change plan update in April but this had to be postponed due to the pandemic. It will also be re-cast to include proposals for green recovery from Covid-19 in the one place. 
The plan update itself is intended to provide new, boosted or accelerated emission reduction policies over 7 sectors. The proposals we’ve been working on have been informed by public contributions and by expert groups. From our perspective there are a lot of opportunities provided by this update, also for real transformational change to deliver our to net zero target. 
Government action alone won’t achieve all of the things within the climate change plan, and sustained public and private action is also needed. This is a collective effort. We are also looking to UK Government to provide swift action given that a lot of the powers to deliver the policies in the wider plan are in fact reserved. 

AP :

  • slides from this section will be forwarded to the group

A stakeholder queried whether the agriculture chapter would take into account the recommendations from the CCC. It was confirmed that the CCC are one of the key reference points and work has already began examining the report to understand the extent it could form a component of the Climate Change Plan update.

Another stakeholder was interested in whether there’d be feedback on the capital grants scheme and where the money has been allocated and to what? It was confirmed we had circulated quite a bit of detail of what had been applied for. Can review this once we have finished the assessments and contracts have been awarded. Currently working with analytical colleagues to evaluate the scheme and what outcomes we’ve supported to inform any future schemes. 

Kirsten then gave a brief overview of her role working to develop the agriculture  chapter of the Climate Change Plan update. Lot of overlap with land use chapter. The Plan update, builds on the structure of 2018 plan and is in the process of being cleared with Ministers. A range of policy development work is currently on the go, and the plan is certainly looking at bringing forward policies to accelerate our progress towards targets in order to build on existing work. Looking to support farmers but doing so in a way that helps their environmental credentials. Another key theme is around land use, looking at optimum land use, and how we understand how multi-faceted land use interacts.

Suckler Beef Climate Change Group update

Since the report from the group chaired by Jim Walker was published, Cab Sec announced at Agri Scot an implementation board to advise how best to take forward the recommendations. They met for the first time last week. All of the information that was provided to this board will be issued to this group shortly.

AP – Information that was provided to the Implementation Board to be issued to the group.

A stakeholder queried the process, remit and how these groups will operate given this is the direction the Cab Sec wants to take. Will this be set out clearly ? Will there be consultation or engagement. Helpful to know how and where and what point we can contribute.

It was confirmed that the terms of reference will be published shortly. Some members of the board are actually part of this call today, and do acknowledge that we need to take into account the views of others. Expectation from the joint chairs, Mr Ewing and Jim Walker, is that the work will be completed Feb / March.

A stakeholder pointed out that the report highlighted the need for training and CPD. And the Farming for 1.5 report also talked about the importance of capacity building. KTIF is a mechanism for funding these activities, and I would like to note that it is important that there is a commitment to fund this in the future. 

It was agreed that a big part of report is ongoing farm advisory and how we can best make use of the systems. The reports are all pointing in the right direction. Very live issue we are aware of and is in progress.

Another stakeholder felt that it would be a missed opportunity if these groups do not also consider opportunities to take action for biodiversity. The initial Walker report is very light on biodiversity - no content included.   

Nature Scot are represented on the board. It is recognised that biodiversity wasn’t well covered in the first piece of work so this needs to be augmented in the next stage of the process.

Covid 19 recovery/green recovery

A stakeholder raised that Peatland restoration featured in the current Climate Change Plan and  RSPB published a report last week on peatland restoration. It was noted that the money committed over the next few years is great but that this will only tackle a section of the area. Scale of net zero target and interim targets for 2030 are huge in terms of land use implications. 

AP:

  • report to be circulated to group

It was noted that this was a very valid point. The scale of ambitions is massive and SG have been looking at how we can coordinate across wider issues. Also looking at the role that nature based solutions can provide for green recovery.  We are very aware of the challenges for the targets we need to meet. We recognise that not all degraded peatland is the same and we’re working on how to better target the funding to make the best use of the money in terms of emissions reduction potential. It’s anticipated we’ll explore this with stakeholders once we have a better picture.

With regards to forestry the situation is fairly obvious. Considerable interest from the farming fraternity to consider woodland creation – a large pipeline of schemes, targets are being well supported politically. Appreciate we have a challenge in land use change but believe that we can progress in a positive way.

SG keen to recognise that we are cognizant of the different land tenures that exist in agriculture at the moment and that Mr Ewing in particular is keen to ensure we keep tenant farmers foremost in our mind. 

AOB

  • the next meeting will be arranged for early next year and will be on Teams. An invitation will be issued shortly
  • the team in RESAS Agricultural Analysis, who conduct the June Census, have been working with DEFRA, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland on a cross UK project which try to link data from the 2010 Farm Structure Survey to other demographic information about education and health. The project will in the first instance be trying to establish the feasibility and practicalities of matching data sources in a secure and anonymised manner then conduct analysis on the results with the aim to better understand the people who work in the sector in the UK and their defining characteristics in order to inform future policy development. Effectively we would like to provide empirical evidence to issues that we all suspect are prevalent with people who work in the industry such as mental health and gaps in education. The project is still in the early stages of development and we are currently trying to increase awareness of the project. So we may be contacting you soon inviting you to a research meeting, where we will cover the aims and take views from stakeholders from concerns to how we can best use the analysis to address problems

Any queries on this project can be sent to David Cruickshanks: David.Cruickshank@gov.scot

Actions

Actions Owner Completed
October minutes to be published Secretariat December 2020
SG to take away and consider how this data and what data could be provided / discuss with RESAS SG January 2021
Update on Scheme to be circulated to members SG December 2020
Written note on funding to be circulated to the group SG January 2021
Slides on Climate Change Plan to be circulated SG December 2020
Information that was provided to the Implementation Board to be issued to the group SG January 2021
RSPB report to be circulated SG December 2021