Potential implications for rural Scotland of the UK leaving the EU

Interim report from the National Council of Rural Advisers.

Conclusions & next steps

We are clear that we all need to be adequately prepared for Brexit come March 29 th 2019, and understand absolutely the sensitivities surrounding the ongoing UK negotiations on Brexit. We also need to better understand what Brexit really means for Scotland, for rural Scotland and for those communities and businesses across rural Scotland who have benefitted from EU membership for the past 44 years. Our view is that post Brexit, a trade deal between the UK and the EU preserving access to the single market and free movement of people would be the least worst option for rural Scotland.

We also appreciate that this moment in time offers us all an opportunity (regardless of Brexit or the form of Brexit) to take a step back and consider how policies, programmes and funding can better serve the needs of our rural society, rural economy, environment and the wider Scottish economy. How can we support the development of the rural Scotland we want to see? How can we work more collaboratively? How can we enable innovation? How can we protect key species and habitats? How can we increase productivity and drive inclusive growth effectively? How can we better support family owned, micro and social enterprises that so dominate rural areas? Some areas highlighted in this report need not await the outcome of Brexit negotiations as they could be usefully explored by this Council alongside the full breadth of rural stakeholders as we work towards establishing future principles and support for rural Scotland.

As stated earlier, we have identified the following key areas that we believe must be considered in advance of Brexit. They are by no means intended to be exhaustive, but trust they offer a meaningful contribution to the ongoing process and will aid the work of the relevant decision makers and key influencers as they prepare for the UK's exit from the EU.

Pre Brexit we should:

  • Scope out future policy framework for rural areas including at regional / local level, e.g. application of inclusive growth at the local level to better meet the local circumstances.
  • Explore potential for less complexity and greater coherence in future funding programmes with greater focus on clear set of outcomes that meet policy aspirations for rural areas post 2020.
  • Explore potential for simplification of future funding programmes coupled with guarantees to maintain or increase on EU (including co-financing) funding levels from the 2014-20 programming period.
  • Develop an appropriate framework (working with UK/ EU partners during negotiations) to support co-operation through continued participation in EU programmes such as LEADER, Interreg, H2020.
  • Press for early certainty on immigration policy, in particular scope for a Scottish migration policy coupled with clarity on rules on the future movement of workers (but not exclusively seasonal EU workers) to allow rural businesses to prepare for Brexit in good time (particularly in hospitality, tourism, food, drink, agriculture & fisheries). Early certainty should include the trialling of a permit system for Scotland.
  • Commission analysis to understand gaps in knowledge on current deployment of EU nationals employed regionally and locally by sector to understand the full scale of the potential shortfall and options for mitigation. Engage with Gangmaster Licencing Authority registered agencies to find out what their impression is of EU/Non EU labour availability.
  • Ensure business support services are well invested, informed and respected, providing appropriate assistance at the right time to prepare all rural businesses for Brexit.
  • Commission a study to look at cost base of competing products to assess the competitive advantage or disadvantage at a range of different tariff levels and trade scenarios.


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