Scottish government seeks bigger Brussels role

The Scottish Government has entered negotiations with the new British coalition administration in a bid to gain wider participation in key agricultural discussions in Europe.

Scotland’s Rural Affairs secretary Richard Lochhead has revealed he has already had talks with DEFRA Minister Caroline Spelman about an “enhanced role” for Scotland at formal and informal council meetings, particularly when Scotland had a particular interest, such as on hill farming discussions.

“We want an arrangement in place so we can be there when necessary,” said Mr Lochhead at Scotsheep, Blairdrummond, Stirling. “We have particular issues and have already discussed what we regard as disproportionate penalties being used when farmers make small errors and have asked the UK Government to raise that in Brussels. In some cases it’s like taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

“And on EID we have moved the debate on and are making the most of a challenging situation, but I believe there is a case for more concessions, particularly that there should no need for tagging until a sheep leaves the farm of its birth.”

Mr Lochhead said his department had “had its moments” with the previous Government and made it clear he hoped the relationship with the coalition would be more constructive.

He also revealed that the Pack Inquiry into Future Support for Agriculture in Scotland had been given an extension for completing the report. Some short-term recommendations will be announced at the Royal Highland Show later this month, but Mr Lochhead added: “Scotland has taken a lead and is ahead of the game. And while we want to influence the debate we don’t want to race too far ahead of the rest of Europe. We need to see some of the ideas from other states.”