1. Background and introduction
The Simplification Taskforce was set up to consider some of the responses submitted to the Stability and Simplicity consultation from June 2018 and build on the views of internal and external stakeholders. To explore ways of simplifying the regulatory landscape associated with agricultural activity and in particular the interaction between customers and the Agriculture & Rural Delivery Directorate within Scottish Government.
Views were gathered from internal stakeholders, including staff within Agriculture & Rural Delivery Directorate and added to the relevant responses from the Stability and Simplicity consultation to identify common themes as a starting point for the Taskforce.
We first met in December 2018 and established a 12 month period within which to consider the information available and issue a report with recommendations.
The Taskforce has focused on improvements to the current system of administering CAP payments as well as regulatory requirements whilst recognising the constraints to change based on the current EU regulatory landscape. Whilst we have focussed on the period up to December 2020, the structure around future policy thinking has developed since the Taskforce was set up and there are now two further groups considering future policy post 2020. The 2021-2024 Policy and Delivery Coordination Group (an internal group), and the Post 2024 Farming and Food Production - Future Policy Group (primarily external members).
The approach taken by the Simplification Taskforce was twofold:
- in the first phase many ideas for simplification were gathered from staff involved in designing and delivering our existing grant, subsidy and regulatory landscape. That generation of ideas provided suggestions for future policy thinking and these suggestions have been fed into the 2021-2024 Group and Future Policy Group referenced earlier. The Taskforce has considered what can be achieved within regulatory constraints in the period up to the end of 2020 and what principles for future delivery might be established
- following that initial phase of ideas gathering, we engaged directly with external Taskforce members using those ideas in conjunction with analysis of the responses to questions 13 and 17 of the Scottish Government's Stability and Simplicity consultation
- a total of eight meetings were held between Scottish Government Taskforce leads, the external Taskforce members and subject matter expert groups from within Scottish Government
For reference, questions 13 and 17 of the Stability and Simplicity consultation were:
- Q13 - Would you support a simplified approach to scheme use of map information or to the land mapping system and, if so, do you have views on where the main opportunities for doing so would lie?
- Q17 - Are there specific issues you think the Simplification Taskforce should prioritise for review?
From these two consultation questions and feedback from staff, the following themes were identified and taskforce subgroups were set up to work with the Scottish Government's subject matter experts on the following topics:
- interpretation of guidance
- mapping (including land inspections)
- inspections which are non-land, and penalties
- forestry grants
All sub-group meetings were held between April and May 2019 with outputs and recommendations shared with the rest of the Taskforce.
A further sub group looking at what other EU countries do in relation to current regulatory requirements was also identified. However this subgroup was dependent on output from the other subgroups to try and focus activity. In terms of time we have not been able to focus enough resource to look at the approach in other EU countries. However as a principle, learning from the approach taken in other countries is one we would wish to consider in future.
The Taskforce viewed simplification in the form of:
- simplification of policy
- simplification of process
- simplification of understanding
We have experienced significant challenge in relation to what can be simplified in the short term in relation to policy and process due to current EU CAP regulations. We also acknowledge that many of the ideas gathered related to longer term policy ideas.
But the principle of thinking about simplification under the categories above has been established. It is also worth noting that by identifying simplifications, this can also in itself be considered as or lead to improvements, whether that is for customers or staff.