Responses to our two CAP consultation documents are coming in, on both the SRDP (CAP Pillar 2) and Direct Payments (Pillar 1). This is a really important part of the policymaking process, so I’d encourage everyone with an interest to send us a response.
The consultation documents can be found at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/12/7550 (SRDP) and http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/12/5922 (Direct Payments).
At this stage, in mid-consultation, government officials (and ministers) have to be careful what we say, so that we don’t inadvertently influence the final consultation results. But I can give a factual update on some things that have happened or are about to happen.
A couple of weeks ago our New Entrant Panel met. New entrants have a special interest in how the National Reserve for direct payment entitlements will operate, so we kicked off some detailed work with them on the kind of criteria we might use. Last week we published farm income estimates for 2013 (http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Indications-of-farm-income-recovery-8c1.aspx). On the same day, the Government gave MSPs an opportunity to set out their views on implementation of the new CAP, in a debate in the Scottish Parliament. Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead’s speech in the debate is at http://news.scotland.gov.uk/Speeches-Briefings/Parliamentary-debate-on-implementation-of-the-Common-Agricultural-Policy-8c7.aspx.
And today, 5 Feb, our CAP stakeholder group is meeting for the first time in 2014.
One of the issues on the agenda is the so-called ‘Scottish clause’ under which we will be able to apply activity requirement to future farm payments. It was Mark Twain who said ‘the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated’, and a similar comment could apply to the Scottish Clause. The European Commission’s first draft of the detailed implementing rules wasn’t acceptable, and we had to lobby to get it changed; but we succeeded, and now we can put together a plan that will mean if there’s no activity on the land, then it won’t be eligible for payments. We’ve identified at least two alternative ways to do this, on which we’ll get stakeholders’ views at today’s meeting before working them up further.