Agriculture and Rural Communities Bill has passed Stage 1 in Parliament.

Sheep grazing with farm buildings in background
Roderick Low

Legislation to support Scotland’s rural economy and communities has passed Stage 1 in Parliament.

On Wednesday 27 March, MSPs voted in favour of the principles behind reforms to how the Scottish Government supports farming and food production in the Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill.

The Bill aims to help farmers and crofters to produce more of what we eat more sustainably, support their essential role in climate mitigation, and nature restoration. It will also create a framework of payments that is responsive to the sector’s needs and incentivises low carbon approaches.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands Mairi Gougeon said:

“Agriculture plays a significant role in our rural economy. Working side by side with farmers, crofters, land managers, and representative and stakeholder organisations, we have sought to create a new way of supporting farming into the 21st Century.

“Our nation needs rural communities to help deliver our priorities for the future – to produce high quality food more sustainably, cut carbon emissions, sequester more carbon, and restore and enhance nature and biodiversity. It is only our farmers, crofters and land managers who can deliver those outcomes, and all of Scotland owes a debt of support to them.

“I reiterate my commitment that farmers and crofters in Scotland will continue to receive direct support. We will transition to a different way of stewarding the land and producing food in a way that is just and by taking our agricultural industry and rural communities with us.”

Earlier this week the Agricultural Reform route map – a guide to help farmers and crofters prepare for the gradual transition to the new agricultural support framework - was updated to with details about the actions farmers and crofters will have to take to receive agricultural support payments from 2025. 

As part of the move to the new framework, changes from 2025 include:

  • a new calving interval of 410 days measured on an individual animal basis added to the Scottish Suckler Beef Support Scheme, to help cut emissions intensity and make beef production more efficient
  • the introduction of the first Whole Farm Plan conditions which require farmers and crofters to complete two baselining activities from a list of options including carbon audits, biodiversity audits, soil analysis, the creation of animal health and welfare plans or integrated pest management plans
  • new conditions for peatlands and wetlands under Good Agricultural Environmental Conditions (GAEC) 6 of Cross Compliance to help protect vital carbon stores

Extensive guidance on each of the new changes will be available in summer 2024. You can view the Agricultural Reform route map here 

The Bill will now go onto Stage 2. Full detail on  Stage 1 | Scottish Parliament Website