Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

– in the Scottish Parliament am 2:17 pm ar 18 Mehefin 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green 2:17, 18 Mehefin 2024

The next item of business is stage 3 proceedings on the Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill. In dealing with the amendments, members should have the bill as amended at stage 2—Scottish Parliament bill 33A—the marshalled list and the groupings of amendments. The division bell will sound and proceedings will be suspended for around five minutes for the first division of the stage 3 proceedings. The period of voting for each division will be 45 seconds. Thereafter, I will allow a voting period of one minute for the first division after a debate.

Members who wish to speak in the debate on any group of amendments should press their request-to-speak buttons or enter RTS in the chat box as soon as possible after I call the first amendment in the group. Members should now refer to the marshalled list of amendments.

Section 1—Overarching objectives of agricultural policy

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

We move to group 1. Amendment 18 is grouped with amendments 19 and 20. I call Ariane Burgess to speak to and move amendment 18 and to speak to the other amendments in the group.

Photo of Ariane Burgess Ariane Burgess Green

Thank you, Presiding Officer. The Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill is critically important because it will set the way forward for how farmers and crofters are supported to grow food and respond to the climate and nature emergencies. Our land is our biggest natural defence against climate change and home to the majority of biodiversity. It is also home to people, and rural communities are a crucial part of the picture. The bill gives us the opportunity to transform how we support communities to steward our land, produce our food and take up new opportunities and, therefore, to thrive.

Agriculture is the dominant land use in Scotland and it is associated with almost a fifth of climate emissions. As agriculture, on the whole, continues to intensify and consolidate, it drives biodiversity loss. Forestry also has major implications for climate and nature—some positive and some negative, when it comes to large monoculture plantations. Therefore, we need to get this right.

My amendment 18 relates to the overarching objectives of agricultural policy, and it would add the words “and between-farm” to the objective that is set out in section 1(1)(c), which is the facilitation of on-farm nature restoration, climate mitigation and adaptation. Adding “and between-farm” would recognise the importance of ecological connectivity between farms. It is not necessarily about funding activity on land between farms, but it would remind ministers to consider the impact that agricultural policy will have on that in-between land, and it would also encourage the development of policies to promote landscape-scale efforts to restore nature and to mitigate and adapt to climate change. After all, climate change and nature are not confined by each farm gate.

I turn to the other amendments in the group. Rachael Hamilton’s amendment 19 would add to the objectives

“the acknowledgement and preservation of the traditions and cultural role of farmers and crofters.”

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Ceidwadwyr

I thank Ariane Burgess for taking an intervention. Before we decide how we will vote on amendment 18, I want to be clear specifically what outcome would be achieved by adding the words “and between-farm”.

Photo of Ariane Burgess Ariane Burgess Green

As I have said, I am keen that we acknowledge that what happens on farms does not stop at the farm gate and that there are issues that affect the whole of an area of land. I want us to ensure that we support that large-scale landscape collaboration between farms and between different land managers.

I will find my place again. I was talking about Rachael Hamilton’s amendment 19, which would include as an objective

“the acknowledgement and preservation of the traditions and cultural role of farmers and crofters.”

We all recognise the importance of farming and crofting to Scotland’s culture, but I am concerned that the wording of amendment 19 is not clearly defined enough and could lock us into preserving practices that are damaging to nature and climate. I am sure that that is not Ms Hamilton’s intention, but an objective of preserving traditions could be taken to mean no change, and we know that change is needed. Therefore, the Scottish Greens want to see more nuance around that.

Ms Hamilton’s amendment 20 seeks to remove the power for ministers to amend the objectives in the bill, but it is standard practice for bills to include such a power. There could be good reason to add to the objectives in future without requiring a completely new bill, with all the parliamentary time that that would require.

I move amendment 18.

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Ceidwadwyr 2:45, 18 Mehefin 2024

Amendment 19 seeks to add to the bill an objective to acknowledge and preserve the traditions and cultural role of farmers. Many farmers and crofters have told me that they feel that their way of life is under threat. Legislation passed in the Scottish Parliament by parties except the Scottish Conservatives, such as the Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Act 2023 and the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Act 2024, has impacted their ability to, for example, control predators and protect important biodiversity.

We know that the Scottish National Party has a track record of proposing legislation that threatens lives and livelihoods—for example, its proposed legislation on highly protected marine areas threatened those of coastal communities—so I am very concerned that the cultural role of farmers could be under threat if we do not recognise that in the bill.

Agriculture has played a central role in society, shaping landscapes, economies and communities. Agriculture is more than an economic sector. Farmers are seen as experts in their communities, who support livelihoods, heritage, landscapes and the environment. It is appropriate to cement farmers’ unique place in rural society by stating that explicitly in the bill’s objectives.

Ariane Burgess wants change, but she dismisses the cultural significance of farmers. Rewilding and the reintroduction of certain species have had a distinct impact on the livelihoods of farmers. That has not been recognised and farmers have not been engaged. For example, the reintroduction of beavers in the Cairngorms has had a distinct impact on farmers.

I turn to my other amendment in the group. At stage 2, an amendment was agreed to that provided the power to amend by regulation the objectives of agricultural policy, with any such amendments to be made through the use of the affirmative procedure. The updated supplementary delegated powers memorandum notes:

“This will provide flexibility that allows the Scottish Ministers to ensure that those objectives stay aligned with future Scottish agricultural policy needs. This ensures that the section 1(1) objectives can remain relevant over time.”

Amendment 20 would remove the ability to amend the objectives and would therefore remove the risk of fundamentally changing the policy direction of the bill, should ministers wish to do so.

On Ariane Burgess’s explanation of amendment 18, although I understand the connection and connectivity between farms and farming enterprises, which is so important for our ecology, I do not believe that there is a distinct connection to the bill or that an outcome would be achieved by inserting the words that amendment 18 proposes to insert.

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

In relation to amendment 18, I highlighted during stage 2 that section 1 sets out the key objectives for agricultural policy, which is why one of the objectives specifically refers to on-farm support. The objectives seek to link agricultural policy and food production intrinsically with the need for there to also be on-farm nature restoration, climate mitigation and adaptation.

The bill enables a much wider range of support, but section 1 is focused on agriculture and is not the place for any wider objectives. It is not clear what is meant by “between-farm” nature restoration—legislation should be unambiguous.

At meetings in recent weeks, I have discussed with Ariane Burgess the fact that the bill already includes powers that enable ministers, should they wish to do so, to support farmers, crofters and land managers to contribute to achieving landscape-scale outcomes. That includes the provision of funding for third-party support to deliver grants and support to enable such collaborations to occur. I therefore ask Parliament not to support amendment 18.

I turn to amendment 19. The culture and traditions of farming and crofting are very important, as Rachael Hamilton outlined, and are worth preserving. The powers in the bill are wide enough to enable ministers to provide support for traditional activities. Even so, the amendment does not tell us what is meant by traditions and culture or how ministers might go about meeting the proposed objective. What the effect of the amendment would be is therefore too uncertain, and it detracts from the other objectives in section 1. For those reasons, I am not able to support amendment 19.

On amendment 20, I know that Rachael Hamilton is seeking to reverse an amendment that was lodged by Colin Smyth and agreed to at stage 2. I have sought to ensure that the bill’s objectives have been drafted sufficiently broadly and at a high enough level to capture the vision for agriculture and to ensure that we have flexibility on how that will be realised.

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Ceidwadwyr

The Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee warned against using Henry VIII powers. That is what I am concerned about. That warning came specifically from the DPLR Committee, which my colleague Tim Eagle sits on. It considered that a couple of weeks ago.

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I think that that warning was made in reference to another power, but I am more than happy to be corrected if I am wrong about that.

On what is important about Colin Smyth’s amendment that we considered at stage 2, I recognise that, over time, it might be appropriate to change the objectives of agricultural policy, and the bill is, on the whole, a framework bill. I do not see any reason to reverse the change that we agreed to at stage 2, and I do not think that there is a good reason to do that. That is why I ask members not to support Rachael Hamilton’s amendment 20.

Photo of Ariane Burgess Ariane Burgess Green

On my amendment 18, which would add “and between-farm” to the objective, I appreciate that the Government is wary of signalling that it would provide support to land between farms from its agricultural budget when the budget is limited. It is not my intention to signal that with the amendment, and I do not think that it does so; instead, it merely reminds us that the goal of restoring nature and tackling climate change is everywhere. The amendment would encourage ministers to keep that in mind in designing agricultural policy that will have impacts on climate and nature beyond the farm gate.

I heard the points that Rachael Hamilton put forward. As I have said, we all recognise the importance of farming and crofting to Scotland’s culture, but I am still concerned that the wording of amendment 19 is too broad and that it could lead to continued support for practices that are not compatible with reversing the decline in our natural world as we start to understand the impacts of climate.

On amendment 20, the cabinet secretary outlined why it is important that ministers retain the power to amend the legislation. The Scottish Greens agree with that.

I ask members to vote for my amendment 18 and not to support amendments 19 and 20. I press amendment 18.

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

The question is, that amendment 18 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members::

No.

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

There will be a division. As this is the first division at stage 3, I will suspend the meeting for around five minutes to allow members to access the system.

Meeting suspended.

On resuming—

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

We proceed to the division on amendment 18, in the name of Ariane Burgess. Members should cast their votes now.

The vote is closed.

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I was unable to connect. I would have voted no.

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

Thank you, Ms Haughey. Your vote will be recorded.

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I was in the same situation as Clare Haughey. I would have voted no.

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party 3:00, 18 Mehefin 2024

Thank you, Mr Dey. Your vote will be recorded.

I have a point of order online, from Angus Robertson.

Mr Robertson, is your microphone on? You need to turn on your microphone; we cannot hear you.

As we cannot hear you, I cannot record your vote. As we are about to note, your vote would not have made any difference to the outcome of the vote as a whole in any event.

Rhif adran 2 Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Ie: 7 MSPs

Na: 104 MSPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party 3:00, 18 Mehefin 2024

The result of the division is: For 7, Against 104, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 18 disagreed to.

Amendment 19 moved—[Rachael Hamilton].

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 19 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members::

No.

Rhif adran 3 Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Ie: 27 MSPs

Na: 83 MSPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party 3:00, 18 Mehefin 2024

The result of the division is: For 27, Against 83, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 19 disagreed to.

Amendment 20 moved—[Rachael Hamilton].

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 20 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members::

No.

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I was slow in connecting. I would have voted no.

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

Thank you, Ms Constance. Your vote will be recorded.

Rhif adran 4 Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Ie: 27 MSPs

Na: 86 MSPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party 3:00, 18 Mehefin 2024

The result of the division is: For 27, Against 86, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 20 disagreed to.

Section 2—Rural support plan

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

Group 2 is on the rural support plan and the evaluation and monitoring of schemes. Amendment 2, in the name of Beatrice Wishart, is grouped with amendments 21, 8, 8A to 8C, 9, 22 to 25, 11, 11A, 10, 10A to 10E, 26 and 12.

Photo of Beatrice Wishart Beatrice Wishart Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

Amendment 2, in my name, would require the rural support plan to set out

“how the plan will be supported by an indicative multi-year financial framework”.

I listened to what the cabinet secretary said at stage 2 about it not being possible for the Scottish Government to commit to the inclusion of multiyear financial frameworks. However, that does not prevent the Scottish Government from including an indicative version. That would provide the sector with information about the Scottish Government’s intentions, which would inform farmers’ and crofters’ planning and investment in their businesses in order to deliver the bill’s objectives. That is particularly relevant to the agriculture sector, which operates over longer timescales.

I ask members to support amendment 2, and I leave it to others to speak to their amendments in the group.

I move amendment 2.

Photo of Ariane Burgess Ariane Burgess Green

I have a number of amendments in this group that seek to strengthen the rural support plan, because the plan is what will determine whether we meet the bill’s four objectives and wider objectives such as achieving net zero and reversing nature loss.

Amendment 21 would require the rural support plan to include

“targets to reduce agriculture’s environmental impact in relation to biodiversity, including indicators to measure progress towards these targets”.

It is a probing amendment that aims to clarify the Government’s intention regarding nature targets in legislation. If the bill does not include nature targets, where and when will they be added into law? We are living in a nature emergency, as the Scottish Government has recognised, and Scotland is towards the bottom of international league tables on biodiversity. That situation will not change unless we take steps to reduce the pressure that we put on nature and allow it to thrive.

We need to work with nature, not against it. A flourishing natural world is not an optional extra that can be considered if there is money left over in a budget; it underpins our human lives through ecosystem services such as clean water, fertile soil, pollination and a stable climate, and it will help agriculture, too. The Scottish Greens are clear that nature targets are essential, so I will listen with interest to the cabinet secretary’s response to amendment 21.

Amendment 22 would give ministers the power to describe how the support that will be provided under the plan will help achieve several important climate and nature outcomes, including reduced emissions, reduced nitrogen loss, an increased amount of land under organic management, improved animal welfare and improved water quality. I encourage members to vote for amendment 22, and I trust that ministers will use the power to reassure us that all plans will deliver for the climate and for nature.

Amendment 24 would simply give ministers the power to modify the list of

“information that may be included in a rural support plan.”

That would be subject to parliamentary approval under the affirmative procedure.

Amendment 25 pertains to the list of statutory duties that ministers

“must have regard to”

when

“preparing or amending a rural support plan”.

The list includes agriculture, biodiversity and the environment, but forestry is missing, despite the fact that the bill enables ministers to provide support for it. Amendment 25 would correct that omission by adding forestry to the list, so that ministers must consider their duties related to forestry, including the duty to promote sustainable forestry management when designing a rural support plan.

Amendment 26 would require the rural support plan to be externally evaluated by an independent body. It sets out timings for when the evaluations must occur before and after each plan period, which are similar to the approach in the EU, with an exception for the first plan, which would be assessed halfway through.

The cabinet secretary’s amendments 9 and 12 will require ministers to monitor and report on the impacts of each support scheme, but there is no commitment to monitoring being conducted by an independent body or consultant. Many stakeholders feel that, to date, the agriculture directorate does not have a good track record of conducting monitoring and evaluation, and strongly believe that independent evaluation would provide a more objective and non-partisan view of how the plans and payment schemes deliver value for money and how well they progress us towards meeting the bill’s objectives.

Again, I will listen with interest to the cabinet secretary’s response on that issue. I understand that the agriculture budget is already on Audit Scotland’s radar, given that there will soon be many new payment schemes involving a large amount of public money. I recognise that it might be appropriate for the Scottish Government to conduct its own assessment first, which could inform any future scrutiny by Audit Scotland or another independent body. However, I wanted to raise the issue for discussion, because the Scottish Greens are clear that significant changes are needed in agriculture and land use, and we will not achieve them without significant changes to the support and incentives provided through the rural budget. We have not yet seen evidence of sufficient changes to the budget, so that needs to be discussed.

Unfortunately, I cannot speak to all the amendments in the group, because we are tight for time, but I will highlight Rhoda Grant’s amendments 10A to 10C, which the Scottish Greens strongly support. Currently, half of all farm support payments go to just 6.6 per cent of recipients—those with the most land. Many already have the most wealth, too, which leaves very little for farmers, crofters and growers with less land. The situation incentivises the continued consolidation of farm businesses and makes it very difficult for new entrants to break into the sector. The Scottish Greens therefore urge members to vote for Rhoda Grant’s amendment 10B to support a more equitable distribution of funds. We also strongly support Ms Grant’s amendment 10A, on fair work, and her amendment 10C.

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I thank members across the chamber for the constructive and helpful discussions that we have had on the amendments in this group and for their input. I believe that the amendments that I will speak to balance the competing demands for detail and for flexibility. They reflect our route map transition period and the realities of being constrained by legacy EU common agricultural policy schemes while we continue to co-develop the detail of future support using the powers in the bill. In doing so, we will ensure that the rural support plan is proportionate and robust and will deliver both now and long into the future.

My amendment 8 will provide greater clarity on each plan period; address the calls for more information to assist with scrutiny; and give farmers, crofters and land managers more information on what to expect. That includes information on the expected total amount of support, the structure of support, allocation of support and the timetable for that support, as well as on measures to benefit small producers, tenant farmers and crofters, and any specific outcomes that Scottish ministers want to achieve.

Amendment 11 will address the issue of consultation by adding a new section on rural support plan engagement, and it lists representative groups alongside specified organisations that Scottish ministers must consult. A statement describing the consultation that is undertaken will have to be laid before Parliament alongside any plan.

Photo of Richard Leonard Richard Leonard Llafur

For the record, they are not listed, but would the cabinet secretary expect trade unions to be consulted on the rural support plan?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

That was not raised with me in discussion, but I am more than happy to consider that going forward.

Amendment 11 and what we have outlined in relation to it provide important clarity on the engagement and consultation that already take place and which will continue to take place, while not constraining our approach to co-development or any statutory requirements as part of secondary legislation.

Amendment 10 will add a new section on the scrutiny of and reporting on plans. It sets out a series of matters that a report must cover, including the total amount of support provided, a breakdown of that support, a description of any non-financial support, the distribution of support provided and an assessment of the effectiveness of the strategic priorities, the delivery of outcomes, the progress towards objectives and the impact of any use of the section 9 power to cap support and assistance. Reporting will include legacy CAP schemes; there will be flexibility to prepare interim or other reports; and the report must be laid before Parliament and published. That provides the clarity requested on reporting to assist with on-going scrutiny.

Amendments 9 and 12 address monitoring and evaluation. As substantial amounts of public funding are given to farmers, crofters and land managers, it is only right that we seek a meaningful return on that investment of public money, ensuring that progress can be charted in delivering on the bill’s objectives, outcomes and statutory duties. These amendments require the rural support plan to set out how the impact of each support scheme will be monitored, with amendment 12 introducing a section on the monitoring and evaluation of schemes, which requires the Scottish ministers to report on the impact and effectiveness of each support scheme and of any other support that is provided outwith a scheme. Those reports must be laid before Parliament and published. Such an approach strikes a balance between setting clear requirements and having the flexibility to determine the appropriate timescale, method and publication to ensure a robust and evidence-led approach.

Turning now to some of the other amendments in the group, I absolutely understand the rationale behind amendment 2, in the name of Beatrice Wishart. However, I point out that, as we have progressed through each stage of the bill, I have set out the difficulties of providing detail on future budgets. I make it clear that we have no guarantees from the United Kingdom Government as of next year. Prior allocations were made on an annual basis, and we no longer have the assurance of the multi-annual programme budgets that we had under the EU CAP.

It will be for the incoming UK Government to provide future funding guarantees, and I hope that the Parliament will support me in pressing for urgent talks on the issue. In the absence of those funding guarantees, amendment 8 provides us with the flexibility to add that information in future, should the situation change. For those reasons, unfortunately, I am unable to support amendment 2, and I ask Beatrice Wishart not to press it.

I thank Ariane Burgess for lodging amendment 21. We should be wary of requiring the establishment of targets where the legal effect might be unclear and the duty to achieve those targets is unqualified. The Scottish biodiversity strategy to 2045, which sets out our clear vision for halting biodiversity loss, will be supported by a series of rolling delivery plans that will include tangible actions for all sectors, including agriculture. It is crucial that the bill retains the flexibility to adapt to future challenges and opportunities without being tied to developing targets, which might not necessarily help us tackle the biodiversity crisis in the right way. The bill already includes powers to support farmers and crofters to deliver on their biodiversity ambitions, and the rural support plan will enable future Governments to set out how they will use that support to do so. Therefore, I ask Ariane Burgess not to move amendment 21.

On amendments 8A to 8C, a plan can only ever provide “an indication of” something at the point when it is drafted, laid and published. The first version of the plan will be a living document and will therefore be iterative, given the phase and period of transition that we are in as we move from legacy CAP schemes into our new co-developed four-tier framework.

With regard to amendments 8A and 8B, I have already discussed the lack of future funding guarantees from the UK Government from 2025. As for amendment 8C, the time periods are subject to active co-development and require secondary legislation, subject to parliamentary timetables, to enact any change. The plan will provide an indication of the dates, and the route map will be updated as and when more detail is known. Overall, that is a sensible approach, as it balances the requirement for detail with the need for flexibility, and for those reasons, I am unable to support amendments 8A to 8C.

As amendments 22 and 24 helpfully balance the competing demands to provide greater detail with the need to retain flexibility during the phased transition, which is subject to parliamentary scrutiny, I am happy to support them. Amendments 23 and 11A, though, provide no proportionality with regard to the scale and type of any amendment to the rural support plan, nor do they consider the existing role of Parliament and committees when scrutinising changes via secondary legislation and in committee evidence sessions. What they propose would add an additional layer of bureaucracy and a resource demand that is neither proportionate, nor normal practice, so I ask that Parliament rejects both.

Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Ceidwadwyr 3:15, 18 Mehefin 2024

Given the comments that the cabinet secretary has just made, does she not agree with the Law Society of Scotland? It suggests that

“the need for flexibility”

in approach needs to be

“balanced against ... clarity in the law, appropriate levels of parliamentary scrutiny underpinning legislative and policy developments, and meaningful stakeholder consultation.”

It also went on to note:

“It is crucial to upholding the rule of law that the law is clear, comprehensible, and transparent so that requirements can be understood by those affected.”

Are we not running a risk that, without a rural support plan at this stage, farmers are no clearer about how the future legislation will impact them?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I disagree with that comment. As I have said, we are going through a period of transition. We have set out as much detail as we can on when we expect to provide more information on the route map. In response to the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee, as well as to the DPLR committee, I published a draft version of what that rural support plan might look like to give an indication of the type of information that it would contain. That is as much information as we can provide at this stage.

I turn to amendment 25. At stage 2, Ariane Burgess lodged an amendment requiring that, for support to be available under the bill, the creation of areas of woodland must have positive impacts on biodiversity, carbon and public amenity. I am grateful to Ariane Burgess for engaging constructively with me on the issue over the past few weeks, and amendment 25 now makes it clear that Scottish ministers must have regard to statutory duties relating to forestry when preparing or amending the rural support plan, including the duty to promote sustainable forest management. I am happy to support amendment 25.

I understand the sentiment behind amendment 10A, which is why, at stage 2, the matters that ministers must have regard to when preparing or amending a plan were amended to include the desirability of the agricultural sector operating with fair work principles. As that stage 2 amendment covers how support has been obtained via the rural support plan, I ask Rhoda Grant not to move amendment 10A.

I agree with the sentiment behind amendments 10B and 10C. That is why, at stage 2, we agreed to amendments that require consideration of the benefits of a diverse and resilient agricultural sector, including small producers, tenant farmers, crofters and agricultural co-operative societies, in preparing the plan. I have also lodged stage 3 amendments that require the plan to set out any measures that are intended to benefit small producers, tenant farmers and crofters, and to ensure that reporting includes the distribution of support that is provided, including geographically and by sector.

On the section 9 use of powers to cap support and assistance, we made the use of that power subject to affirmative procedure at stage 2 in order to give Parliament a scrutiny role. Amendment 10, on reporting, includes an assessment of the impact of any use of section 9 powers. Taken together, the amendments cover the distribution of support and scrutiny of any use of capping during reporting, monitoring and evaluation, and I think that they address the issue comprehensively. I therefore think that Rhoda Grant’s amendments are not necessary and I ask her not to move them.

On amendments 10D and 10E, we need to ensure that we can do the right reporting at the right time to deliver the right output across a range of different types of support. Arbitrary requirements risk creating reports for the sake of reporting, which could divert time and resource away from the co-development and delivery process without providing any tangible or useful output. I therefore ask Rachael Hamilton not to move amendments 10D and 10E, and if she does, I ask Parliament not to support them.

Finally, on amendment 26, which replaces existing EU common agricultural policy evaluation requirements, such requirements work in a CAP context, because of the long lead times and limited change within long programme periods. Our agricultural reform programme takes a different approach, with continual co-development and reduced programming periods. I have lodged amendments to cover the plan’s reporting and monitoring and evaluation requirements, which I believe better reflect our approach and this period of phased transition. I hope that those amendments assure Ariane Burgess that we will take a flexible but robust approach to monitoring and evaluation, and I ask her not to move amendment 26.

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Ceidwadwyr

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to my amendments in the group. I thank the cabinet secretary for meeting me and my colleagues to discuss the Government’s intention to introduce important safeguards into the bill as has been widely called for by stakeholders and colleagues.

The rural support plan is incredibly important. It sets out the strategic objectives and priorities, including how ministers will use the powers that are given to them to provide rural support for different purposes that are set out in the bill. My amendments in the group seek to strengthen amendment 8, in the cabinet secretary’s name, by providing further safeguards.

Amendment 8 requires further detail to be contained in the rural support plan, including an overview of how support is to be provided for, how it will be structured and how it will benefit producers. That is something that we called for at stage 2. Although I support the amendment, which aims to provide that additional clarity, I believe that it still fails to provide the necessary detail that would be useful and beneficial to the rural support plan.

Amendments 8A, 8B and 8C are designed to strengthen the cabinet secretary’s amendment 8 by removing the references to “an indication”. The amendments would therefore place requirements on the Government to provide commitments as to the total amount of support, how the support is to be divided between schemes and how long the schemes will last, which is in the same vein as the amendment that I lodged at stage 2.

In a similar vein, my amendments 23 and 11A seek to improve the safeguards in this framework bill to ensure that the relevant committee has oversight of and involvement in the co-design of the rural support plan. So far, the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee has had very little of that; although the cabinet secretary said that she had recently sent the committee some detail around the rural support plan, it was really just place markers and no detail. We have waited six years to get to this point of giving farmers detail.

Jeremy Moody from the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers Scotland described the rural support plan as the “ghost” in the agriculture bill. That is why it is so important. However, as has been widely noted, framework bills lack specified mechanisms for robust parliamentary scrutiny. Amendments 23 and 11A would provide the Parliament with an additional level of scrutiny and oversight of the development of the rural support plan.

Taken together, my amendments 10D and 10E would introduce the requirement for ministers to prepare a yearly report on the amount of support that is provided during regular periods of a rural support plan. Scottish Environment LINK supports amendment 10D and notes that it

“strengthens scrutiny and ensures that agricultural policy can continue to develop based on evidence and experience.”

I do not accept the cabinet secretary’s description of that as taking away from or adapting the policy objectives of the bill as we go along.

I support Beatrice Wishart’s amendment 2, which recognises the importance of an “indicative multi-year financial framework” on the effectiveness of the rural support plan. We had much debate at stage 2, and I engaged fully with the cabinet secretary about the points that I was making. However, I do not accept the cabinet secretary’s argument that the UK Government should come forward with a financial statement on funding given that the Scottish Government pulled ring-fenced funding of £46 million. Where is the clarity, transparency and commitment from this Government when it is asking for something from the UK Government?

I am happy to support amendment 25, in the name of Ariane Burgess, because it is important to add forestry to that list.

Photo of Rhoda Grant Rhoda Grant Llafur

I will speak to my amendments 10A, 10B and 10C and the other amendments in the group. This group of amendments is the nub of the bill—the rural support plan is what the bill is about. I welcome the cabinet secretary’s amendments and her taking into consideration the amendments that were lodged at stage 2 by other members, including my colleague Colin Smyth. I am also grateful to the cabinet secretary for sharing drafts and considering requests to add to her amendments.

The amendments that I lodged at stage 2 were not accepted by the cabinet secretary, but I hope that I can persuade the Parliament to accept my amendments today.

Amendment 10A seeks to embed fair work principles in the rural support plan. Although I acknowledge that amendments regarding fair work practices were added to the bill at stage 2, the amendment would add those principles to the rural support plan. It would result in support that would ensure a fair return for small farmers and crofters, and it would mean that larger enterprises receiving support would practice fair work principles for their workforce.

Amendment 10B is about the outcomes that the Scottish Government must report on at the end of a plan. My amendment asks that the report include

“the redistribution of support provided, to ensure a more equitable distribution of funds”.

The bill allows for capping and redistribution of funds, and amendment 10B, along with amendment 10C, would simply mean that the Government should report on and analyse how it used that power and the impact that it had during the term of the plan.

Beatrice Wishart’s amendment 2 asks for an indicative budget for the duration of the plan. We support that, because we accept that agricultural funding comes from the UK Government and that the Scottish Government is therefore dependent on that budget to enable it to provide figures for the plan. If the Scottish Government itself does not know what funding will be available for the lifetime of the plan, it is therefore useful to have indicative figures.

For the same reason, I cannot support Rachael Hamilton’s amendments 8A, 8B and 8C, which would mean that the Government would have to give the total amount of support to be delivered throughout the term of the plan, because that would be impossible if the Government did not have those figures for the lifetime of the plan.

Photo of Edward Mountain Edward Mountain Ceidwadwyr 3:30, 18 Mehefin 2024

I will speak to a few amendments, if I may. Before I do so, I remind members of my entry in the register of members’ interests. I am a third-generation farmer in Moray and have been farming for 40 years in a family farming partnership. I farm 500 acres that I own, 500 acres that I rent and 10 acres under an Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1991 tenancy. I employ three people and I produce beef, barley and vegetables. I receive payments under the current scheme. I think that is about as full and frank as I can be.

Beatrice Wishart’s amendment 2 is extremely useful. The Pack review and other previous reviews of agricultural policy led to a complete change in where subsidies are paid, so it would be useful to have an indicative multi-year financial framework that could allow farmers to see where the money is going. I also like the cabinet secretary’s amendment 8 about the overview of support and I support the amendments in Rachael Hamilton’s name, especially amendments 23 and 11A. They prove the importance of the Parliament’s committee system—we do Parliament a disservice if we do not recognise the importance of that system.

I do not support amendment 22, in the name of Ariane Burgess, because it appears that she wants the way that farming should be carried out to be written into the bill. I do not think that is a role for politicians; it is the role of farmers in response to guides and nudges by politicians about what they want to achieve.

I support amendment 11, in the name of Mairi Gougeon. It is really important to support engagement and the people who engage with the process. That is something that I pushed for by lodging amendments at stage 2 and I am delighted to see that embodied in the cabinet secretary’s amendments at stage 3. I do not always say such nice things about the cabinet secretary, but it is a pleasure to do so.

It is also a pleasure to support amendment 10. I am not sure what amendment 10B would achieve, because the bill includes the ability to cap payments and I do not think that amendment 10B is much help.

Amendment 26 has already been covered, so I think that that is enough from me. Those were some thoughts on some of the amendments.

Photo of Beatrice Wishart Beatrice Wishart Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

The number of amendments lodged by colleagues from across the chamber indicates the importance of the rural support plan to this legislation. It is therefore important to ensure that it is robust, that money is targeted, that we know how schemes will be monitored and that, at the same time, there is flexibility and co-design in development.

I thank the cabinet secretary for her views on my amendment 2. I remain of the view that an indicative multiyear financial framework should be included in the rural support plan and, therefore, I press amendment 2.

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 2 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members::

No.

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I was unable to vote. I would have voted no.

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

Thank you, Ms Haughey. Your vote will be recorded.

Rhif adran 5 Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Ie: 48 MSPs

Na: 64 MSPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party 3:30, 18 Mehefin 2024

The result of the division is: For 48, Against 64, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 2 disagreed to.

Amendment 21 not moved.

Amendment 8 moved—[Mairi Gougeon].

Amendment 8A moved—[Rachael Hamilton].

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 8A be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members::

No.

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. The app froze on me. I would have voted no.

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

Thank you, Ms Martin. Your vote will be recorded.

Rhif adran 6 Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Ie: 27 MSPs

Na: 87 MSPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party 3:30, 18 Mehefin 2024

The result of the division is: For 27, Against 87, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 8A disagreed to.

Amendment 8B moved—[Rachael Hamilton].

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 8B be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members::

No.

Rhif adran 7 Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Ie: 27 MSPs

Na: 87 MSPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party 3:30, 18 Mehefin 2024

The result of the division is: For 27, Against 87, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 8B disagreed to.

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Ceidwadwyr

On the basis that I do not think that I will win on amendment 8C, I will not move it.

Amendment 8C not moved.

Amendment 8 agreed to.

Amendment 9 moved—[Mairi Gougeon]—and agreed to.

Amendment 22 moved—[Ariane Burgess].

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 22 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members::

No.

Rhif adran 8 Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Ie: 86 MSPs

Na: 28 MSPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party 3:30, 18 Mehefin 2024

The result of the division is: For 86, Against 28, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 22 agreed to.

Amendment 23 moved—[Rachael Hamilton].

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 23 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members::

No.

Rhif adran 9 Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Ie: 47 MSPs

Na: 67 MSPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party 3:30, 18 Mehefin 2024

The result of the division is: For 47, Against 67, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 23 disagreed to.

Amendment 24 moved—[Ariane Burgess]—and agreed to.

Section 3—Rural support plan: matters to be considered

Amendment 25 moved—[Ariane Burgess]—and agreed to.

After section 3

Amendment 11 moved—[Mairi Gougeon].

Amendment 11A moved—[Rachael Hamilton].

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 11A be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members::

No.

Rhif adran 10 Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Ie: 45 MSPs

Na: 67 MSPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party 3:30, 18 Mehefin 2024

The result of the division is: For 45, Against 67, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 11A disagreed to.

Amendment 11 agreed to.

Amendment 10 moved—[Mairi Gougeon] .

Amendment 10A moved—[Rhoda Grant].

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 10A be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members::

No.

Rhif adran 11 Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Ie: 28 MSPs

Na: 84 MSPs

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party 3:30, 18 Mehefin 2024

The result of the division is: For 28, Against 84, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 10A disagreed to.

Amendment 10B moved—[Rhoda Grant] .

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 10B be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members::

No.

Photo of George Adam George Adam Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. The voting platform refused to work again. I would have voted no.

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

Thank you, Mr Adam. Your vote will be recorded.

Rhif adran 12 Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Ie: 28 MSPs

Na: 85 MSPs

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party 3:30, 18 Mehefin 2024

The result of the division is: For 28, Against 85, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 10B disagreed to.

Amendment 10C moved—[Rhoda Grant].

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 10C be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members::

No.

Rhif adran 13 Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Ie: 54 MSPs

Na: 59 MSPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party 3:30, 18 Mehefin 2024

The result of the division is: For 54, Against 59, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 10C disagreed to.

Amendment 10D moved—[Rachael Hamilton].

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 10D be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members::

No.

Rhif adran 14 Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Ie: 46 MSPs

Na: 68 MSPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party 3:30, 18 Mehefin 2024

The result of the division is: For 46, Against 68, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 10D disagreed to.

Amendment 10E moved—[Rachael Hamilton].

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 10E be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members::

No.

Rhif adran 15 Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Ie: 46 MSPs

Na: 68 MSPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party 3:30, 18 Mehefin 2024

The result of the division is: For 46, Against 68, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 10E disagreed to.

Amendment 10 agreed to.

Photo of Ariane Burgess Ariane Burgess Green

Given the cabinet secretary’s comments on evaluation of the rural support plan, I will not move amendment 26.

Amendment 26 not moved.

Section 4—Power to provide support

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

We now turn to group 3. Amendment 28, in the name of Rachael Hamilton, is grouped with amendments 27 and 29. I call Rachael Hamilton to move and speak to amendment 28 and to speak to the other amendments in the group.

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Ceidwadwyr

Thank you, Presiding Officer. Before I speak to my amendment, I wish to take this opportunity to thank the members of the bill team for their support throughout the passage of the bill. They have been incredibly thorough and efficient and I really appreciate their time. I say that on my behalf and on behalf of my colleagues on the Scottish Conservative benches.

Farmers and food producers deserve clarity about funding to allow them to plan for the future. Farm plans often work in multiyear cycles. Amendment 28 requires that support is provided through a multiyear financial framework and, where appropriate, ring-fenced funding. The amendment provides certainty and reassurance to farmers who want to plan and invest for their future. A commitment to multiyear funding has been consistently called for by farmers and producers, members across the chamber and key stakeholders.

The National Farmers Union Scotland notes that

“without the inclusion of this amendment, there is a risk that agricultural businesses will be restricted to annual commitments which could result in a diminishing or reduced ability to deliver high-quality agricultural produce as well as helping to tackle climate change and enhance biodiversity which are expected of them.”

Providing for a multiyear financial framework would represent a long-term commitment to Scottish farmers and food producers.

Amendment 27 is a redrafted amendment from stage 2, following discussions with the Scottish Crofting Federation. This amendment enshrines in the bill the provision that any future peatland restoration or agroforestry support schemes must be accessible to tenant farmers and crofters. That would help to remove barriers that tenant farmers and crofters often face when applying for support schemes. I look forward to hearing Ariane Burgess’s explanation for amendment 29 before I consider how to vote on it. As for a spoiler, I do support engagement with stakeholders.

I move amendment 28.

Photo of Ariane Burgess Ariane Burgess Green

With regard to the power to provide support, my amendment 29 would require ministers to engage with affected communities and consult with other appropriate persons before making regulations about supporting forestry projects. That was prompted by the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s inquiry into the use of public funds to subsidise commercial conifer planting. It found that communities were confused and frustrated by poor and unclear engagement around forestry proposals for their areas.

The cabinet secretary has assured me that work is on-going to improve guidance on multistage community engagement for each forestry project, but the bill creates an opportunity for Government to set out consultation requirements for all projects that will receive public funding. Right now, trust in the transparency and social responsibility of large-scale conifer projects is low. Just one example is the campaign to oppose a large commercial Sitka spruce plantation in Stobo Hope that is intended to be used for carbon offsetting. The campaign’s crowdfunder page says that

“the views of the local community appear to have been sidelined”.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has given more than £2 million to a trust fund based in the tax haven of Guernsey, which bought the land for that project.

I will listen with interest to the cabinet secretary’s response and I may not move amendment 29. However, I want to highlight the issue, which is keenly felt by communities around the country.

I turn to Rachael Hamilton’s amendment 28 on the multiyear financial framework, which was discussed in the previous grouping. I briefly repeat that the Scottish Greens do not support making that a requirement, as it would be impossible to fulfil without more certainty from Westminster.

We fully support the principle of Ms Hamilton’s amendment 28, which would ensure that all support provided for peatland restoration and agroforestry is available to tenant farmers and crofters. We want everyone to join the effort on the ground to fight climate change, but we are concerned that the amendment could be unworkable for some funding streams and could hold back money going to peatland restoration and agroforestry.

The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill will improve tenants’ ability to participate in and benefit from such activities, and the Scottish Government assures me that other work is under way to help improve landowner-tenant relationships, which would help to achieve the same goal. The Greens therefore feel that the amendment is unnecessary and could be counterproductive.

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party 4:00, 18 Mehefin 2024

As we are nearing the agreed time limit, I exercise my power under rule 9.8.4A(c) of standing orders to allow the debate on this group to continue beyond the limit in order to avoid the debate being unreasonably curtailed.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I rise to oppose amendment 29. The arguments that I will adduce apply mutatis mutandis, as the lawyers say, to amendments 61 and 63, so I will not repeat them to avoid detaining members unduly.

I am a great supporter of the four Fs, which are, of course, farming, fishing, forestry and field sports. They are a staple of the rural economy in Scotland. They must remain so, and in our endeavours we must provide all support to them for the excellent, invaluable work that they do. Rewilding is often a preface to redundancy, so repeopling is what we should aim for.

According to Confor—the Confederation of Forest Industries—amendment 29 woulds lead to significant delay, administrative burden and cost. It is unnecessary, vague and damaging, and it should not be in the bill. The industry wishes to engage, and it does engage. Confor wants to build on the good relationship that it has with the Government to see how that could be improved. However, imposing a general duty in this way—willy-nilly and lacking definition, guidance and clarity—is open to abuse, and, for that reason, should be rejected.

The other point that I want to make is that there is an apparent ingrained antipathy among the Green Party to commercial species. In particular, Sitka spruce has been named and shamed by Ariane Burgess. I am bound to ask—to paraphrase Monty Python, or at least the Greens—“What has Sitka spruce ever done to us?” Sitka spruce, although much maligned, is highly suited to the Scottish climate, grows very effectively and is invaluable for the commercial forestry sector, both for panel products and sawmills. Without a reliable, continuous supply of Sitka spruce and other commercial species, those industries, which contribute £1 billion to the Scottish economy and support 26,000 jobs, mostly in rural Scotland, would be lost. Indeed, I know from when I was cabinet secretary that investments made by leading panel products companies were made only after rigorous examination that there would be sufficient supply of Sitka spruce in future.

I regret that there has been a reduction of 41 per cent in the financial support for forestry. Perhaps that was due to the influence of the Green Party as a result of the now-defunct co-operation agreement. Now that that Faustian pact has been ripped up, as it deserved to be, I hope that in rejecting amendments 29, 61 and 63, we can drive Mephistopheles out of the room as well.

Photo of Edward Mountain Edward Mountain Ceidwadwyr

It is always dangerous to request to speak after Mr Ewing has eloquently made your case for you. However, three or four years ago, when Mr Ewing was in charge of forestry, we heard of the dire shortfalls that there were going to be in our forestry sector. In fact, by 2036, there was going to be no way that it had enough timber to keep the industry in Scotland going.

I am concerned that amendment 29 would put on the backburner across the Highlands and across Scotland the industry that produces timber that we can use in our houses.

I am further concerned that amendment 29 would undermine the Mackinnon review and the work that is being done to try to speed up some forestry and the appropriate planting of appropriate trees in the appropriate places to ensure that our industry across Scotland is able to keep going without massive job losses. I therefore ask members not to support amendment 29.

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

On amendment 28, I want to make it absolutely clear that I would love nothing more than to set a multiyear budget that provides all of us—not least our farmers and crofters—with certainty, as we had with the CAP when we were in the EU. However, the UK Government has failed to meet its own promise to engage with the devolved Governments in meaningful discussion on the future of agriculture spending, which means that we have absolutely no certainty after next year that there will be any funding at all in the future. That is completely unacceptable. While that remains the case, I cannot accept amendment 28.

Amendment 27 is very similar to an amendment that Rachael Hamilton lodged at stage 2. It seeks to make specific examples of support accessible to specific groups—tenant farmers and crofters. I absolutely agree with the intention behind Rachael Hamilton’s amendment, because I am fully committed to ensuring that tenant farmers and crofters are given equal opportunity to access the new agricultural support framework, and to ensuring that the four tiers within that framework work for all types of land tenure.

However, some of the current barriers to that, especially in relation to peatland restoration and agroforestry, relate to the landowner and tenant farmer relationship and to where powers currently lie. That is why there are provisions in the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill, which I introduced in Parliament in March, that seek to remedy the barriers that we know tenant farmers face.

On crofting, I am absolutely delighted that the crofting law reform consultation was launched on 6 June. One of the proposals would make provision for crofter-led projects and landlord collaborations that will make it easier to initiate environmental projects on common grazings.

However, amendment 27 would be counterproductive in that support could be provided to other persons—to agroforestry and arable systems, for example—only if that support was also made available to tenant farmers and crofters, even if tenant farmers and crofters as a whole would not benefit from the type of support that was being provided. I therefore encourage Rachael Hamilton not to press the amendment.

Ariane Burgess’s amendment 29 proposes a precondition being placed on the Scottish ministers to engage with any communities or persons who might be affected by forestry activities prior to making regulations under section 4 in relation to support for forestry. Although I understand the rationale behind the amendment, I think that the burden that would be created by it would be unreasonable.

As I mentioned at stage 2, the forestry support that will be provided by the bill extends far beyond woodland creation alone. I am concerned that amendment 29 could result in an unreasonable duty being placed on the Scottish ministers. Consultation and co-design will be at the heart of creating support for forestry, as was the case when the current forestry grant scheme was being created.

I also reassure Ariane Burgess that existing guidance relating to creating new woodland and forest planning already has robust engagement and consultation procedures built in. Further to that, both of the Scottish forestry guidance documents are currently being updated to bring them into line with “Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement 2022”. I hope that that demonstrates sufficiently that engaging with stakeholders and communities is already a part of forestry processes and that amendment 29 is not required.

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Ceidwadwyr

Having considered Ariane Burgess’s amendment 29 and listened to what was said, we will support it, because it has been requested by farmers and communities across our constituencies—not crofters in this particular example, in relation to Sitka spruce, because that is absolutely impossible. The community has spoken thoroughly about the issue. The Royal Society of Edinburgh report that Ariane Burgess has referred to is an important document that considered the adverse experiences of communities when their views have not been heard and recognised.

I ask members: how can swathes of Sitka spruce provide local jobs, as Fergus Ewing described? I have spoken to people in communities who have seen livestock being removed from the uplands and swathes of Sitka spruce being planted by investment companies that do not, in those particular circumstances, have the best interests of communities at heart. I worry, with regard to food security, that we are taking away livestock and reducing their numbers.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I think that I and Rachael Hamilton support both farming and forestry. There are jobs in planting trees, in silviculture—looking after trees during their lifetime—and in felling them. There are jobs in panel products, sawmills and house building. Wood is a sustainable material that should surely be supplanting concrete and brick, and we should be growing more of our own and relying less on imports. Britain imports more wood as a proportion of its total consumption than every country in the world, apart from China.

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Ceidwadwyr

I completely understand that we need to ensure that we have United Kingdom provenance in our forestry supply chain.

However, the wording of amendment 29 does not take away from the fact that it is clear from communities and people who live in the relevant areas that jobs are not going to them. If we could steer some of those employment opportunities in our wonderful forestry industry and supply chain towards them, that would be another thing—but I am going off topic. That is not to say that I do not support forestry—I was at a recent industry event in the chamber, which was sponsored by Fergus Ewing. I just do not want to see a monoculture landscape.

On my amendment 28 regarding multiyear funding, I ask the cabinet secretary whether it would be okay if I were to ask the Scottish Government for a spending commitment before its budget announcement. The UK Parliament provided year-on-year funding across a session of Parliament, with a Bew uplift to support Scottish agriculture. It said that that was what was going to do and that it would not announce something before a spending review.

However, the Scottish Government using that ring-fenced funding for something else takes away from it. The Scottish Government deferred the funding and £46 million has disappeared from the rural affairs budget, which supports agriculture. The Scottish Government expects farmers to do the heavy lifting in its aspirations to meet net zero targets.

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

It is important to point out that Rachael Hamilton is absolutely not comparing like with like in describing the different scenarios. Parliament outlined exactly why the savings were made and why they were taken: it was down to the fact that they were ring fenced and had to be spent on our rural communities. That is the very nature of ring fencing. That money will be returned to the portfolio, as was committed to at the time by the then finance secretary and First Minister.

We can compare that to the situation that we are in with the UK Government. Funding is confirmed and allocated only on an annual basis. It is therefore impossible for me, and it would be completely irresponsible of me, to commit to a multiyear financial framework when I do not have that certainty, confirmation and commitment from the UK Government.

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Ceidwadwyr

I thank the cabinet secretary for trying to justify the Scottish Government’s actions in deferring the money—£46 million of funding, of which only £15 million has been promised for 2025-26. What certainty does that give farmers? They need to know that they can get support from the Scottish Government to meet net zero targets and provide food security for this country. I believe that farmers should be supported, because they have faced significant global challenges over the past couple of years.

That is all I have to say on the group of amendments.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

The question is, that amendment 28 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members::

No.

Rhif adran 16 Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Ie: 49 MSPs

Na: 65 MSPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

The question is, that amendment 27 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members::

No.

Photo of Edward Mountain Edward Mountain Ceidwadwyr

On a point of order, Deputy Presiding Officer. I voted, but I am not sure whether my vote has been recorded. I would have voted yes.

Rhif adran 17 Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Ie: 49 MSPs

Na: 65 MSPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol 4:15, 18 Mehefin 2024

The result of the division is: For 49, Against 65, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 27 disagreed to.

Photo of Ariane Burgess Ariane Burgess Green

I have listened to the cabinet secretary and I accept her assurances on the guidance being updated. Given the strength of feeling on consulting communities, I trust that the forestry sector is listening to that, too. In that light, I will not move amendment 29.

Amendment 29 not moved.

After section 6

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

Group 4 is on distribution and capping of support and assistance. Amendment 30, in the name of Ariane Burgess, is grouped with amendments 31 to 36.

Photo of Ariane Burgess Ariane Burgess Green

This group consists of seven amendments about redistribution of the agricultural budget. I know that some of my colleagues in the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee proposed similar amendments to achieve the same intention at stage 2, so I trust that there will be contributions to the debate on this crucial issue.

The intention behind all the amendments is to increase support for more people to make a good living from farming, crofting, growing, nature restoration and other good green jobs on the land. That will not only help rural communities to grow and thrive; it is essential for tackling the climate and nature emergencies.

As I said earlier, when speaking to Rhoda Grant’s amendment 10B, half of all farm support payments currently go to just 6.6 per cent of recipients—that is, those with the most land. Basic payments are known as income support, but many of the largest farms do not need income support. Richard Leonard made the point clearly at stage 2 that the largest payments go to landowners like the Duke of Buccleuch, the Earl of Moray, the Duke of Roxburghe and the Earl of Rosebery, who received between £1 million and £2 million in so-called income support in one year. That leaves too little for small-scale food producers, for new entrants and for more targeted incentives to support the climate and nature.

Each of my amendments in the group will ensure that public funds are better targeted to support more people carrying out activities in the public interest. Some of them could also help to slow the continued consolidation of larger and larger holdings that are owned by fewer and fewer people, which is incentivised through the current area-based system.

Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Ceidwadwyr

On the point that landowners are sometimes the biggest recipients of support, what evidence does the member have that those recipients are not delivering good value for money for the taxpayer in delivering climate change adaptations, given that we know that some of Scotland’s largest rural estates contribute significantly to the rural economy, to biodiversity and to climate change mitigation?

Photo of Ariane Burgess Ariane Burgess Green

With my amendments, I am seeking to create some distribution so that we support smaller producers.

Section 9 of the bill gives ministers the power to cap and/or taper farm support payments. Amendment 31 would change that power to a duty, amendment 32 would restrict that duty to apply only to basic income support, and amendment 36 defines “basic income support”, which is likely to be under tier 1 of the new framework.

Amendments 33 and 34 would require ministers to use a front-loading mechanism to redistribute a relatively small portion of the agriculture budget. EU member states are now required to redistribute at least 10 per cent of their agriculture budget. In Ireland, recipients now receive a higher payment per hectare for their first 30 hectares. Amendment 33 would set the threshold at 30 hectares, and amendment 34 would leave it open to the Scottish Government to determine the figure.

Amendment 35 would, in effect, create a minimum income floor, as there is no real living wage in agriculture. I heard the cabinet secretary’s concern at stage 2 that that could result in payments to people who were not delivering the desired outcomes, but surely that is one of the issues with the current payment system, whereas, under the future payment framework, more stringent conditions will have to be met in order to qualify for support, as my amendment alludes.

Amendment 30 is a last resort if my other amendments fail to receive support. It would not place a duty on ministers to redistribute any of the budgets or to ensure that farmers and crofters could make a living while delivering public goods, but it would require them to consider redistribution when designing support schemes and to report on any measures that they planned to take to achieve that and the impact that those would have on the distribution of payments.

I move amendment 30.

Photo of Richard Leonard Richard Leonard Llafur

I rise in support of Ariane Burgess’s amendments in this group. We have recently lost one of our greatest poets, novelists and thinkers, with the sad death of John Burnside, and every time I heard the protesting cries of the Scottish Land & Estates lobby over the past few days, I could not help but think of him. Not only did John Burnside call for a genuine redistribution of land and wealth and an end to subsidies to rich individuals and corporations; in one of his great memoirs, he wrote that he had nothing against money

“although I did feel it should be more evenly distributed, and any argument against doing exactly that struck me as specious, cowardly or self-serving.”

Moreover, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government has said to Parliament on a number of occasions that where the money goes is a reflection of our values. So, we need to decide whether we want to feather-bed the biggest, the richest and the wealthiest or whether we want to level the payment system up.

I think that Ariane Burgess is right in lodging these amendments, which are important for reasons of transparency, but I also think that John Burnside was right: we need a genuine redistribution. As Karl Marx said, it is not enough to interpret what is happening and where the money is going; the point is to change it.

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

A number of the amendments in this group reflect amendments that were previously lodged at stage 2 and that called for capping, redistributive action and front loading.

In relation to amendment 30, the actual detail of changes, including new schemes in the different tiers, will be provided for in secondary legislation using the proposed powers of the bill. That will involve further consultation through the associated impact assessments, along with parliamentary scrutiny. I have been clear that our approach is to always co-develop with our industry and wider partners to ensure that legislation and regulation are best fitted to work and deliver the outcomes.

I understand the sentiment of amendment 30, and I can provide reassurance that any new schemes will be co-developed and that any redistributive mechanisms will be implemented as required and, in each case, adapted to the needs of the recipients in question, which may be much wider than is provided for in the proposed new section in amendment 30. After all, some support schemes might be focused on sustaining our rural communities rather than just agriculture. Amendment 30 is therefore inflexible and unnecessary, as the powers that are required are contained elsewhere in the bill and the appropriate checks and balances will form part of the rural support plan and the monitoring and evaluation of schemes.

Amendment 31 would make capping and tapering mandatory. I think that the intention, through amendment 32, is that that would affect only basic income support, and a definition of “basic income support” is provided by amendment 36. However, as was previously outlined, decisions on capping need to be worked through as part of the co-design process, in consultation with persons whom the Scottish ministers consider appropriate to deliver exactly what is needed in each case. I therefore urge Parliament not to support those amendments.

Amendments 33 to 35 seek to address matters that are related to our smaller producers. I have already made clear my commitment to ensuring that smaller producers continue to thrive, and we, too, want to see more of them. Capping and front loading continue to be portrayed as a solution, but we also need to consider more nuanced approaches to support smaller producers, which is exactly what we are doing as part of the small producer pilot.

The powers in the bill provide us with the ability to think more creatively about supporting small producers. It may be that, after engaging with persons whom the Scottish ministers consider appropriate, capping and/or front loading are considered to be an appropriate approach. However, to specify that in the bill would pre-empt that engagement and go against our commitment to co-development with the industry. I therefore ask Parliament not to support amendments 33 to 35, to allow that co-development to take place.

Photo of Ariane Burgess Ariane Burgess Green

I thank the cabinet secretary and my colleague Richard Leonard for their contributions. I have listened to the cabinet secretary and I take on board many of the points that were raised. However, I still believe that the amendments are essential if we are to create a fairer payment system and realise the objectives of the bill, including thriving rural communities. None of the amendments would lock in area-based payments, because capping, tapering, front loading and a minimum income floor could apply regardless of the criteria for qualification for income support, but the amendments would assure small producers that the Scottish Government is serious about supporting them.

The cabinet secretary highlighted that her amendment 10 requires the report on the rural support plan to include the distribution of support that is provided. However, that could cover only distribution between sectors or geographical regions; it does not specify redistribution between larger and smaller farms or among all recipients of support. Therefore, I believe that my amendment 30 adds value.

The Scottish Greens urge members to vote for all the amendments in the group, and I press amendment 30.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

The question is, that amendment 30 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members::

No.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

There will be a division. Members should cast their votes now.

The vote is closed.

Photo of Foysol Choudhury Foysol Choudhury Llafur

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I could not connect. I would have voted yes.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol 4:30, 18 Mehefin 2024

Thank you, Mr Choudhury. Giving yourself a little more time to connect may help, but I will ensure that that vote is recorded.

Rhif adran 18 Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Ie: 50 MSPs

Na: 60 MSPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol 4:30, 18 Mehefin 2024

The result of the division is: For 50, Against 60, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 30 disagreed to.

Section 9—Power to cap support and assistance

Amendment 31 moved—[Ariane Burgess].

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

The question is, that amendment 31 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members::

No.

Rhif adran 19 Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Ie: 26 MSPs

Na: 86 MSPs

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol 4:30, 18 Mehefin 2024

The result of the division is: For 26, Against 86, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 31 disagreed to.

Amendment 32 moved—[Ariane Burgess].

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

The question is, that amendment 32 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members::

No.

Rhif adran 20 Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Ie: 25 MSPs

Na: 89 MSPs

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol 4:30, 18 Mehefin 2024

The result of the division is: For 25, Against 89, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 32 disagreed to.

Amendment 33 moved—[Ariane Burgess].

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

The question is, that amendment 33 be agreed to. Are we agreed?