Summary of benefits and costs
Option 1 – Do Nothing
The 'do nothing' option represents a known quantity in terms of what support is available to individual farmers, crofters and land managers.
The funding that has been identified for use as part of the National Test Programme could potentially be reallocated to existing support schemes, which may result in a small uplift in some of the support payments made to farmers, crofters and land managers.
As no new support mechanisms would be introduced, there would be no additional costs or changes in terms of Scottish Government administration and implementation.
This option should not create any additional monetary costs beyond those normally incurred in the provision of the existing support. It will also be unlikely to produce any savings.
The main costs of this option are non-monetary.
These main costs include: the risk of not meeting our legally binding emissions envelope targets for the agriculture sector; losing the opportunity to test which methods are most effective, efficient, and feasible to roll out at a large scale, and being out of step with the co-development approach being taken as part of a Just Transition; and being perceived as falling behind the progress made in terms of rural support elsewhere.
Option 2 – Implement a National Test Programme
The National Test Programme encourages farmers, crofters and land managers to improve their knowledge of their own current environmental performance and efficiency by creating a baseline of information and understanding in sustainable agriculture. This is in line with the priorities identified during the public consultation and discussions in the various stakeholder groups. This will also in turn help the agricultural industry to meet the ambitious Scottish Government targets to address the climate change and biodiversity emergencies.
The voluntary nature of the Programme will provide an important stepping stone as part of the transition towards greater mandatory conditionality as part of the new framework for future support.
The Programme will also allow the Scottish Government to gather information and evidence on the outcomes of the two tracks, and their impacts on businesses, as part of the development process for the new Scottish Agriculture Bill and the longer term rural support framework.
A total of approximately £51 million over three years has been identified to fund the National Test Programme. The precise breakdown of this will depend on the uptake of Track One, and the decisions made on the design of Track Two, which are subject to the ongoing co-design process.
Costs to businesses should be minimal as the Scottish Government funding has been designed to cover all costs incurred due to the participation in the Programme.
Declaration and publication
I have read the Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment and I am satisfied that, given the available evidence, it represents a reasonable view of the likely costs, benefits and impact of the leading options. I am satisfied that business impact has been assessed with the support of businesses in Scotland.
Date: 26 September 2022
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands
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