The future of Scottish agriculture post-Brexit Contents

1Introduction

1.Farmers and crofters are the bedrock of Scotland’s booming food and drink industry, the largest manufacturing sector in Scotland. In 2018 it supported over 75,000 businesses, employed over 8% of the rural workforce and contributed £3.18 billion to the economy.1 Scotland’s agricultural sector has supported this remarkable industry despite the fact that the vast majority of its farming land is classified as being a “Less Favoured Area”.2 This means that the land’s condition makes it less productive, with much of its use restricted to lower-value farming practices such as livestock grazing.3 However, this land is an essential part of Scotland’s iconic landscape with farmers and crofters playing a critical role in stewarding the environment.4

2.Agricultural policy is devolved in Scotland, but the Scottish Government must exercise its powers within the overarching framework set by the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Under the CAP, the UK Government allocates agricultural funding to the Scottish Government, who then implement the policy in Scotland. This provides some flexibility in how support payments are designed and for some policy differences across the UK. When the UK leaves the EU, this will create the potential for greater policy differentiation between Scotland and the rest of the UK. We decided to hold an inquiry to look at the challenges and opportunities for Scottish agriculture as it leaves the CAP.

Our Inquiry

3.We received 30 pieces of written evidence and held eight oral evidence sessions hearing from: academics, farmers, trade associations, think tanks, and the UK and Scottish Governments. We also met with crofters on the Isle of Lewis and held a roundtable with researchers at the James Hutton Institute to explore the future of agricultural innovation. We are grateful to all those who contributed to our inquiry.

4.We begin this Report by examining the broad principles which should underpin future allocations of UK agricultural funding across the devolved nations. We then turn our focus to: agricultural payments to farmers and crofters; common frameworks for agricultural policy; and trade in agricultural goods. Finally, we consider the labour requirements of Scottish agriculture and the role of technology and innovation in addressing labour needs and improving productivity.


1 Scottish Government, Total income from farming estimates for Scotland 2016–2018, 2019 and NFU Scotland, Scottish Farming Facts, 2018




Published: 31 July 2019