APPENDIX 5: NOTE OF A MEETING WITH
MR JOHN SCOTT MSP, MR MIKE RUMBLES MSP AND MS SARAH BOYACK MSP
JANUARY 9 2008
Cameron of Dillington, L
Sewel, L (Chairman)
Witnesses: JOHN SCOTT, Scottish Conservative Party
Spokesperson on Rural Development; MIKE RUMBLES, Scottish Liberal
Democrats Spokesperson on Rural Development; SARAH BOYACK, Scottish
Labour Party Spokesperson on Rural Development.
1. Lord Sewel: Asked how the witnesses
expected the CAP to develop over the next 10 years or so, and
what the impact of the 2003 CAP reforms had been on Scottish agriculture
and the Scottish rural economy.
- Stated that while environmental
organisations were looking to the future of the CAP with enthusiastic
expectations, there was nervousness on the part of the farming
- Explained that from the perspective of the Labour
Party, the most important issue would be how the transition process
- The CAP should thus evolve to support communities
while also securing public goods and promoting the local procurement
of food (within the limits of EU procurement policy).
- Drew attention to the importance of secure food
supplies, and suggested that there was huge support for sourcing
fresh, and where possible, local food.
- Anticipated that in future there would be less
- Noted that the 2003 reforms had
been largely beneficial, and had allowed people to seek market
solutions while support was still in place.
- Indicated that it would be essential that such
support remains in place in Scotland, where 85 per cent of agricultural
land has "less favoured area" status, as returns in
the marketplace are only now returning to what they were pre-1986.
- Suggested that without that support, agricultural
production in Scotland as we've known it for the last 55 years
- Described the 2003 reforms as
positive and beneficial, having delivered benefits across the
- Noted that it had been right to allocate Single
Farm Payments on an historic basis at the time, but that this
would have to be changed if it were to avoid giving rise to anomalies.
A fair transitional system would need to be applied during such
- Considered it right that support should be moving
from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2, but deemed it important that support
should be maintained in the Highlands and Islands as those regions
are special cases.
- Pointed out that the Scottish rural development
budget was decreasing by 6.5 per cent over 3 years, and expressed
concern that increases in voluntary modulation were being used
to make up the difference.
- Stressed that his party did not have a problem
with compulsory modulation, however, and that it should be increased.
2. Lord Sewel: Asked to what extent the
Scottish administration shared Mr Rumble's views on modulation.
- Indicated that he didn't think
it did. Noted that Mr Lochhead was responsible for the increase
in voluntary modulation.
3. Lord Sewel: Summarized the responses,
asking the witnesses to confirm that the reforms had been broadly
welcomed, and that they saw a need to maintain support under Pillar
1, while also recognizing the necessity of increasing the resources
available under Pillar 2.
- Pointed out that she disagreed
with Mike, and that Labour would have gone further with voluntary
modulation, as the party does not view farming as the only industry
in the rural sector.
- Emphasised that more expenditure was needed in
Pillar 2, including more support for environmental measures.
- Noted that if the money taken
away from farmers through modulation were given back to them,
they wouldn't have a problem with it. It is when the money is
allocated to others and they see their standard of living fall
further that they oppose voluntary modulation.
- If there were a level playing-field in terms
of modulation across Europe, farmers would support the mechanism,
- Stressed that the Scottish Executive
had cut its contribution to the rural affairs budget by 6.5 per
cent, and compensated for it with voluntary modulation.
4. Lord Cameron of Dillington: Put it
to the witnesses that if one were to start again with the social
and economic regeneration of the countryside, one would not start
with the CAP.
- Insisted that that nobody was
opposed to the objectives of Pillar 2, but to where the money
5. Lord Sewel: Suggested that there appeared
to be a tendency to conflate the rural and the agricultural agendas,
when these were in fact different.
- Stressed that it was nevertheless
important not to forget that especially in more remote rural areas,
for example in traditional crofting communities, we don't want
traditional ways of life turned around. It would have to be a
mixture of the two, not all one way.
6. Lord Sewel: Pointed out that a Pound
could only be spent once.
- Noted that it's important to ask
what the added value of each pound spent is. Emphasised that her
party would be very keen to see more rural development funding,
because preserving, say, 4 jobs in a rural community would have
many more knock-on effects than preserving the same number of
jobs in Edinburgh Central (her constituency).
- Highlighted the extra transportation
costs faced by farmers in Orkney, Shetland and the rest of the
Highlands and Islands and that there is therefore certainly a
need for some sort of agricultural support to compensate for those
- Suggested that it was the gold-plating
of red tape (regulation) that makes certain rural activities unviable.
7. Viscount Ullswater: Asked the witnesses
how they viewed villages in Scotlandwhether populations
appeared to be increasing or decreasing, and what the trends were
with respect to the value of housing.
- Pointed out that the Rural Affairs
Committee of the Scottish Parliament was launching an inquiry
into rural housing, and that there was real concern that people
were being driven out of homes (due to affordability issues).
He noted by way of example that 50 per cent of houses in Braemar
(in his own constituency) are holiday homes.
- Explained that whereas in the
past, desertification payments focused on keeping people in the
hills and glens, this was no longer an issue. People now do want
to buy remote cottages and travel long distances and work from
home. The issue now is thus instead what the land is used for,
if agriculture is no more viable than in the past.
- Cautioned against falling into
the trap of looking at Scotland as a whole. Rural Aberdeenshire
and rural Highlands and Islands face different problems. Explained
that in his Aberdeenshire constituency, the population was rising,
and there was pressure on housing.
8. Lord Cameron of Dillington: Pointed
out that both remote and near countryside appeared to achieve
better outcomes on most indicators than did urban areas in Scotland.
- Noted that some work had been
done on accessible rural communities last year, and it had been
found that there was much less activity on the land than there
used to be.
- Pointed out, however, that if climate change
resulted in even small increases in temperature, this would dry
out peat and increase emissions. Because of this challenge, her
party was keen on more rural development.
9. Lord Sewel: Suggested that wet peatlands
were a public good and might thus need some support, but that
rural areas in general were doing well.
- Agreed that there were great needs
in urban areas too.
10. Lord Sewel: Asked the witnesses where
they stood on the abolition of milk quotas and set-aside.
- Explained that he did not have
much to say on milk quotas, which had become valueless.
- Suggested that thought should
be given to how to preserve the environmental benefits of set-aside
and that the consequences of its abolishment should be thought
through to ensure that none of these were unintended.
- Added that the loss of set-aside
is about setting priorities for land use, and that it is consequently
right and proper that it should be abolished.
- Like Ms Boyack, however, he did not want to see
its environmental benefits lost.
11. Lord Cameron of Dillington: Suggested
that one of the few justifications for the SFP was that it may
be an 'environmental contract in-waiting'. Asked the witnesses
about the extent to which we could be using cross-compliance more.
- Suggested that any such moves
would have to be part of the Land Management Contracts in use
- Cross compliance at the level set now should
be regarded as a minimum.
- Felt that cross compliance was
encouraging travel in the right direction, but expressed concern
about the red tape that came with it and the disproportionate
penalties associated with the regime.
- Suggested that cross compliance
had raised the bar, and that it could be used to secure other
public goods, such as biodiversity. Farmers needed to be incentivised
to adopt farming practices that create habitats.
12. Lord Sewel: Asked whether all this
could be included Rural Development Contracts.
- Suggested that it was to early
to say how those contracts were working, but that they had been
designed intelligently, with a menu of options.
- Felt that more articulation with
climate change issues was necessary as climate change is a key
priority for Scotland, and that more incentives for appropriate
activities and behaviour needed to be provided.
13. Lord Sewel: Noted that agriculture
emissions were contributing to climate change, but that the sector
was also in a position to make a contribution society's adaptation
to it. Asked what the government could do to promote such a contribution.
- Suggested that Rural Development
Contracts would create incentives.
- She identified several areas where agriculture
could make a contribution, listing among others flood management,
forestry, biomass (including supply chainsnot just biomass
boilers), wind farms and a sensible approach to biofuels, as well
as food security.
- Pointed out that advice to the farming community
would be important, for example if a given area was expected to
suffer more droughts.
14. Lord Cameron of Dillington: Asked
what capacity there was for R&D into these issues.
- Noted that Scotland has the Macaulay
Institute as well as the Scottish Agricultural Research College.
- Suggested that researchers would
look at anything provided that they are funded.
- Added that climate change would necessitate that
more of Scotland's land be used for food production.
- Noted that while he agreed with the proposed
increase in forestry, it was not the answer, as land would come
under pressure, with competing uses for it, such as public access,
tourism and flood management.
- Added that tourism is by far Scotland's biggest
industry, and much of it is linked to scenerya public benefit
that is delivered by Scottish land managers.
- Noted that the key to improving
the competitiveness of Scotland's agriculture would be market
forces, with the proviso that the most vulnerable communities
- Stressed that there was no need
to see forests in opposition to tourism issues, and that it was
important to look for opportunities rather than viewing everything
as a threat.
15. Lord Sewel: Asked what one thing the
witnesses would say to the Agriculture Commissioner if they had
- Said he would ask her to get rid
of voluntary modulation and increase compulsory modulation.
- Said he would tell her to wake
up and smell the coffee about food security and consider how,
in a globally warmed world, Europe would be able to feed itself
and others who can no longer produce.
- Said she would urge her to focus
on where we want to be in five to ten years' time rather than
fighting the battles of the past.