The Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) (Scotland) Bill has passed its final stage in the Scottish Parliament.

After its stage 3 debate, which included a number of divisions as opposition parties sought to shape its purposes further, MSPs unanimously backed the bill, which enables Scottish ministers to ensure that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) can continue beyond the end of this year, and make improvements to the scheme following the end of the Brexit transition phase.

It also improves the legal basis for collecting information about the agri-food supply chain and activities relating to agriculture.

Although the EU CAP will cease to apply, the existing CAP architecture and rules will be transferred into domestic law, via the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and the Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Act 2020. The present bill allows ministers to modify that retained EU law.

Work is underway to ensure the necessary secondary legislation is in place for those schemes to be available in 2021. Ministers intend to provide farmers, crofters, foresters, rural businesses and rural communities as much stability and security as possible, especially in the wake of COVID-19.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing commented: "This bill puts in place the legal framework to allow us to take action to streamline, simplify and free up resources to pilot and test activities likely to feature in a future farming and rural support policy beyond 2024.  

"The ongoing uncertainty of Brexit and the impact of coronavirus show how important it is to give our farmers and crofters financial stability in the next few years. This Bill is the first step to ensure that we secure the ability to continue to operate CAP schemes from 2021 – this includes the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme, Knowledge Transfer and Innovation and Small Farmers Grant Scheme.

"The Bill also provides Scotland with the opportunity to make the improvements that are tailored to suit our unique agricultural and rural needs. I am pleased this has the backing of the Scottish Parliament, allowing us to have these powers in place for 2021."

Click here to view the stage 3 proceedings.