Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform

The Scottish Government has begun the role out of its three year CAP reform. We will be providing regular updates and commentary on what this means for rural property and business owners.

Agricultural Reform Route Map – is the way forward any clearer?

Following on from the Scottish Government’s Vision for Agriculture and the Proposals on the Agriculture Bill in February 2023, the Scottish Government published an Agricultural Reform Route Map. The Proposals, which were published in August 2022 and set out a four-tier framework for farm support in line with the Vision for Agriculture, were criticised by the industry for lack of detail and clarity. The Route Map sets out timescales for the forthcoming transitional period, aiming to help landowners plan and prepare for changes coming in 2025, but there are still details required of the measures and how applicants will be paid. So, what has the Agricultural Reform Route Map clarified since the Proposals paper?


The Route Map has given a timetable for the phasing out of current support and phasing in of future support.

CAP reform timetable of changes

To view the timetable as a PDF, click here.

Payment conditions

Alongside the timetable, the Route Map has included some very general information on conditions relating to the payments under the Tiers.

The Tier 1 payments will be conditional upon farmers meeting “essential standards” which are referred to in the Route Map as standards in “climate response; biodiversity gain; business efficiency outcomes; safeguarding animal health and welfare and worker rights.” In addition “Greening, Cross Compliance requirements (Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAECs) and Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs)) and the completion of a Whole Farm Plan are currently being considered as part of essential standards but no decisions have been taken on what will be included” Furthermore, no decisions have yet been made on what a Whole Farm Plan will include or how it can be used to deliver the Vision for Agriculture.

Tier 2 payments are to build on Tier 1 payments, focusing on measures that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and restore and improve nature, supporting producers and incentivising sustainable and regenerative farming. The Scottish Government has produced a publication, called Guidance on the List of Measures, on the measures that are being proposed. This aims to give some assistance for future planning, but they are what they say on the tin – guidance on proposals – and farmers might well be wary of relying on them in relation to any major investment or significant changes to farming practices.

What comes next?

From a legal perspective, the Agriculture Bill has yet to come before Parliament, and any secondary legislation coming from the Act will still need to run through the legislative process. However, in the Route Map, the Scottish Government has provided a timetable for further announcements which, all being well, should run concurrently with the journey of the legislation through Parliament.

Between April and June, the Scottish Government will provide information on the new conditions for BPS and VCS in 2025, along with the report on the Agricultural Bill Consultation. Detailed conditions for BPS and VCS and details of Elective Support for 2025 will be issued in early 2024. From April 2024, the payment strategy for the transitional period of 2025-2027 will be announced. Guidance for BPS, VCS and other schemes will also be announced in early summer 2024 with guidance on Complementary Support following on later in summer and the budget for support towards the end of the year. In 2025 we expect to see details of the support for 2026, anticipated changes for 2027 and the budget for 2026 support.

The Scottish Government are engaging with the industry on the measures proposed in the Guidance on the List of Measures.

How can farmers plan?

The Route Map fails to give full details of the conditions that farmers will need to comply with come 2025, and payment levels and timings are yet to become known. At this point we know that support will be conditional upon farmers meeting “essential standards” but we don’t know what exactly those are, and as noted, the Guidance on the List of Measures relates to proposed measures so cannot be fully relied upon. Although the Route Map gives illustrations of how the measures will apply, it emphasises that these are “illustrative only and subject to change as more information becomes available” – one of several caveats in the publication.

While we are looking at a three-year transitional period (at least), the way the various support elements are to be phased in means that farmers will have rather short notice of the conditions and payment details ahead of implementation.  The future of LFASS and VCS remains uncertain.

It appears that the Route Map has been produced as a stop gap and we are not much further forwards. As a result of all this, forward planning will still be extremely difficult for the sector.

Available support – Preparing for Sustainable Farming

The Preparing for Sustainable Farming scheme allows farmers to claim costs for carbon audits (£500) and Soil Sampling (up to £600 per 100 hectares of Region 1 land). There is a £250 Development Plan payment that can be claimed along with the first Soil Sampling Claim. The aim of these payments is to help businesses understand carbon emissions and sequestration, with a view to lowering emissions and increasing efficiencies and forward planning.

Support is also available with a grant of up to £1,250 for animal health and welfare measures, and also from AECS and FGS, Peatland Action, and the Nature Restoration Fund.  MyHerdStats provides an online tool for managing and analysing cattle herd information electronically, and the Farm Advisory Service will continue to provide advice as it evolves along with the support system.

Although the available support appears to align with the Vision for Agriculture and Guidance on the List of Measures and may assist farms generally, until full detail is known about the conditions attaching to future support payments it will be difficult for farmers to make solid future plans in relation to these.

Wider land management and charge plan

Agricultural reform forms part of a wider plan for change to agriculture and land management in Scotland, and the Scottish Government have produced a timetable for forthcoming change. We will provide more information as this becomes available.


While the Route Map does set out a timetable for the transitional phasing in of the future payment framework, further details are required for farmers on the conditions to apply to future payments, and the level and timing of such payments. Time is running out for farmers to plan ahead and time is tight for introduction of the new framework. The way forward is clearer, but only slightly.

Further knowledge

Read our previous article discussing the CAP reform here.

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