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ARCHIVE: Devolution
Main Concordat between the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Scottish Executive

1. This Concordat is an agreement between the Scottish Executive (SE) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF). It establishes for all matters relating to the Scottish Parliament's responsibilities for agriculture, fisheries and food an agreed framework for co-operation between the administrations as envisaged in the White Paper "Scotland's Parliament" (paragraph 4.13). The Concordat operates in accordance with the principles outlined in the overarching Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and is consistent with, and complemented by, other guidance on common working arrangements.

2. The Concordat sets out general provisions in relation to domestic and European Union policy. Co-operation on the latter is guided by the agreed Concordat on Co-ordination of European Union Policy Issues. Key principles in other areas are also covered, including the operation of the State Veterinary Service. Where more detailed operational arrangements are necessary additional subject-specific concordats may be made by mutual agreement between Heads of Divisions and Groups in MAFF and the SE. Provisions in subject-specific concordats must take account of all relevant parts of the main Concordat and may not contain anything at variance with the main Concordat.

3. This Concordat is not intended to constitute a legally enforceable contract or to create any rights or obligations which are legally enforceable. It is intended to be binding in honour only.

Domestic policy

4. MAFF and SE affirm their mutual commitment to work together on the application of agricultural, fisheries and food policy within their respective responsibilities. Similarly, they will, as necessary, liaise closely concerning non-devolved matters, especially where any issues could impact on devolved areas. This co-operation is intended to give both parties the assurance that working relationships will be conducted in an agreed and helpful manner, aiming where possible and appropriate to achieve agreement on policy. Arrangements for keeping in touch and for bilateral consultation are covered in the overarching MOU at paragraph 4 onwards. In addition, MAFF and SE agree that regular contact will continue, to discuss ongoing business of mutual interest, through meetings at Ministerial and official level.

5. To help this process, the senior agriculture officials in MAFF, and the Head of the Food and Agriculture Group of the Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department (SERAD), will aim to meet monthly (or as appropriate) to discuss matters of mutual interest and co-ordinate any necessary joint action. The Scottish Minister(s) responsible for agriculture and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will aim to meet bi-monthly or as appropriate for the same purposes. Similarly, for fisheries there will be regular meetings between the respective Fisheries Secretaries and between the respective Fisheries Ministers.

6. There is no intention to constrain either SE's right to operate or to legislate as it sees fit in relation to devolved matters in Scotland, or to constrain MAFF in any areas of non-devolved competence.

7. Good communication in both directions and the avoidance of surprises for either party will form the basis of this co-operation. To this end:

  • MAFF and SE shall keep each other fully informed of any new policy proposals before they are made public (normally at least one month). "Policy proposals" include proposals for both primary and secondary legislation and for major non-statutory measures. Each party will also apprise the other of the ongoing development of such proposals. Where pressure of events prevents this, each party will inform the other as soon as possible;

  • MAFF and SE will notify and consult each other on any proposals to change what is currently UK/GB legislation in good time before they are made public (normally at least one month). Where pressure of events prevents this, each party will inform the other as soon as possible;

  • Both parties agree to maintain the confidentiality of discussions and of any information received from the other (MOU paragraph 11 refers); and both parties must agree before confidential information received by one from the other is disclosed to a third party;

  • To ensure that the interests of consumers, producers and other interested parties are protected both in England and Scotland, MAFF and SE agree on the importance of immediately informing the other of any relevant information which would require action by, or have resource consequences for, the other party;

  • MAFF and SE also agree to provide each other with briefing relating to their respective interests, wherever possible within any deadlines set.

8. MAFF and SE acknowledge that in some areas (devolved or otherwise) there may be a need for their separate responsibilities to be tackled with a consistency of purpose. Each party shall consider promptly and thoroughly the concerns raised by the other. Where both agree that consistency is needed, consultation on a common approach shall be undertaken.

European Union policy


9. MAFF and SE agree to work together constructively for common interests, taking into account the range of devolved and non-devolved functions involved in the formulation, negotiation, implementation and enforcement of EU-related policies and rules. This section of the Concordat is consistent with, and amplifies, the Concordat on Co-ordination of European Union Policy Issues. The latter provides the overarching framework for all relevant aspects, including representation in Brussels, links with European Institutions, scrutiny of EU legislation, implementation of EU obligations, and arrangements for handling infraction proceedings.

10. As foreign policy issues are a non-devolved matter, relations with the EU are the responsibility of the UK Parliament and Government. MAFF consequently retains overall policy responsibility for the formulation of UK policy towards European Union (EU) initiatives, but will involve SE as directly and fully as possible in decision making on EU matters which touch on devolved areas and non-devolved areas which have a distinctive impact of importance in Scotland.

11. These arrangements will rely for their effectiveness on mutual respect for the confidentiality of discussions and information (including statistics) exchanged.

Provision of Information and Policy Formulation

12. SE will be fully involved in discussions with MAFF about the formulation of the UK policy position on all issues which touch on devolved matters. In order to contribute effectively to the UK's decision making on EU matters, SE will need to have information on relevant EU proposals. MAFF will therefore provide SE with full and comprehensive information, as early as possible, on all new developments and initiatives within the framework of the EU which may be relevant to SE, including notification of relevant meetings within the EU. MAFF will also provide information to SE on any direct contacts from any other Member States or third countries which concern SE responsibilities.

13. SE would not normally expect to receive direct approaches from the Commission relating to new policy initiatives. Should it do so, it will inform MAFF as soon as possible of such approaches and will pass on to MAFF its views in good time for them to be taken into account. Equally, SE will provide information on any direct contacts with other Member States or third countries.

14. The sharing of information relating to policy formulation will be undertaken with a view to reaching agreement between the administrations. Most issues will be capable of being dealt with bilaterally between MAFF and SE or through correspondence.

15. Following consultation and in collaboration with SE, MAFF shall notify the Commission (via UKRep) of any matters where requirements to pass on information are laid on the Member State or its competent authority, e.g. State Aids and information requirements in sectoral regulations. SE will make relevant information available to MAFF as is necessary for it to meet its obligations. In the following areas, however, and following consultation with MAFF, SE will normally notify such information direct to the Commission (via UKRep):

i Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowances (HLCAs) returns;

ii Information on the financial structure and incomes of farm businesses in Scotland (Farm Accountancy Data Network);

iii Data relating to the implementation of Rural Development Programmes under the Rural Development Regulation; and

iv Notifications under the Technical Standards Directive.

Unless agreed to the contrary, this arrangement relates to both current and successor instruments. In every case, the party notifying the Commission will send a copy to the other.

EU Negotiations and Attendance at Council of Ministers and Related Meetings

16. These principles apply to the Council of Ministers (in full or restricted session), SCA, COREPER, Working Groups, Management Committees, representation to the European Parliament and any ad hoc meetings, including those with other Member States.

17. MAFF retains overall responsibility in the agriculture, fisheries and food areas for the pursuit of UK policy in multilateral and bilateral negotiations, and in formulating a UK response.

18. As stated in the White Paper "Scotland's Parliament", Ministers and officials of SE have the right to attend relevant meetings chaired by the Commission and relevant Council meetings and other negotiating meetings with EU partners. The role of Scottish Ministers and officials will be to support and advance the single UK negotiating line which they will have played a part in developing. The emphasis in negotiations has to be on working as a UK team. MAFF will determine how each member of the team can best contribute to securing the agreed policy position.

19. In any appropriate cases, the leader of the delegation could agree to Scottish Ministers speaking for the UK in Council, and that they would do so with the full weight of the UK behind them, because the policy positions advanced will have been agreed among the UK interests. The same approach will apply in official-level meetings chaired by the Council or Commission.

20. MAFF will inform SE as quickly as possible when meetings referred to in paragraph 16 above, of relevance to the UK's negotiating position, are to take place. MAFF will also copy to SE the records of all such meetings as soon as they are produced. MAFF will take account of the views of SE at all stages in the negotiating process. The SE Minister will write to the MAFF Minister in advance regarding Ministerial attendance at forthcoming Council meetings.

Implementation of European Obligations

21. It will be the responsibility of MAFF formally to notify SE at official level of any new EU obligation which concerns devolved matters and which it will be the responsibility of SE to implement in Scotland. In addition MAFF will, as necessary, liaise closely with SE about the implementation by UK legislation of obligations in non-devolved areas, particularly where these could impact on devolved areas. Both MAFF and SE will identify to the other any mistake which they find, or difficulty arising from the text of the EU legislation. Following consultation and in collaboration with SE, MAFF will notify any such mistakes to the Commission, via UKRep, copying relevant papers to SE.

22. To ensure that consistency of purpose is maintained, as appropriate, and for the avoidance of surprises to either party, MAFF and SE agree to co-operate in the following ways:

  • Within four weeks of the notification of a requirement to implement an EU obligation - or sooner if the EU timetable demands - they will consult on the timetable for implementation;

  • SE will let MAFF know within the four-week period whether it intends to use the option to implement through use of UK/GB instruments. Where this option is used, or where it has been agreed that SE will use MAFF draft legislation to draw up implementing legislation in Scotland, MAFF will ensure that the draft legislation is forwarded to SE in sufficient time to allow necessary procedures, including consultation, to be completed by the implementation deadline.

23. When it is decided that separate legislation will apply in each territory to implement an EU obligation:

  • Both parties agree to consult on draft instructions for lawyers at least five working days before they have to be submitted;

  • Both parties will exchange copies of the Statutory Instruments at least five working days before they are finalised. Any changes as a result of examination of the text by senior lawyers will be communicated by each party to the other for consultation;

  • Similarly, where SE opts to implement EU obligations separately by Act of the Scottish Parliament, it will have a responsibility to consult MAFF (and other Departments as necessary) on its proposals with a view to ensuring consistency of effect and timing, where appropriate;

  • Both parties will keep each other informed about developments (e.g. Judicial Reviews) which might have implications for the other.
Enforcement of European Obligations

24. SE is responsible in Scotland as MAFF is in England, for the correct enforcement of EU obligations which concern devolved matters. MAFF and SE recognise that enforcement may have cross-border implications. Where there is a risk of inequality or disallowance, enforcement will need to be tackled with a consistency of purpose and effect, though different circumstances may mean that identical rules are inappropriate. To this end MAFF and SE will consult with and then inform each other of their chosen methods of enforcement, for example by exchanging copies of scheme rules. They also agree to such mutual exchanges of information as are required to assist the good management of schemes and the observance of EU obligations.

25. Where enforcement difficulties arise in Scotland or England, MAFF and SE will consult with each other in advance of any discussion with the European Commission or European Court of Auditors. They will similarly consult on any corrective action demanded by the European Commission or European Court of Auditors.

26. In the interests of good communication and for the avoidance of surprises, MAFF and SE will, wherever possible, inform each other at least one week in advance of bilateral contacts with the Commission or other Member States which are relevant to the enforcement of EU legislation. They also agree to report back to each other about such meetings, copying any records as soon as they are available.

International policy

27. MAFF retains overall responsibility for the formulation of UK policy in respect of international agreements relating to all matters for which it has responsibility. To ensure that SE is fully involved in the formulation, negotiation, implementation and enforcement of international policy in devolved areas the same principles as set out in the EU policy section above and in the overarching Concordat on International Relations between the UK Government and the Scottish Executive will apply.

Animal health and welfare and veterinary services

28. MAFF and SE agree that the implementation of animal health and welfare policy, and veterinary public health policy throughout England and Scotland (and Wales) will be carried out by a single unified State Veterinary Service (SVS) under the line management of the Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO). Similarly the activities of the Meat Hygiene Service in Scotland will be subject to agreed arrangements set out in a specific concordat.

29. Although responsibility for meat hygiene policy rests with the Joint Food Safety Standards Group (JFSSG) and SE, the CVO will remain the head of the competent veterinary authority and be responsible for international negotiation on trade in animals and animal products and matters relating to veterinary certification.

30. The Assistant Chief Veterinary Officer (Scotland) (ACVO) will act as the CVO's nominated representative in Scotland. The ACVO will be responsible for providing advice to SE on all veterinary issues and ensuring that the policies of SE in relation to animal health and welfare, and veterinary public health are implemented by the SVS. The ACVO will advise the CVO on all veterinary matters affecting Scotland including reporting on implementation.

31. SE will fund animal disease surveillance in Scotland and provide information in an agreed format to GB National Databases.

32. Detailed arrangements for the operation of the SVS in Scotland, including the responsibilities of the CVO and the financial and staffing responsibilities of MAFF and SE, will be set out in a specific SVS concordat. There will also be a subject-specific concordat and a detailed service level agreement in respect of the British Cattle Movement Service, to cover working arrangements and to provide for the recovery of costs legitimately incurred in supporting the operation of the Cattle Tracing System in Scotland.

Food safety and standards

33. The policy responsibilities of the JFSSG will be undertaken in consultation with SE.

34. The advisory committees dealing with food will continue to operate on a joint basis with each committee reporting to UK Ministers and Scottish Ministers. Existing arrangements for appointments to advisory committees will be maintained. MAFF and SE affirm that the secretaries of committees will ensure that the views and advice received from the committees are communicated immediately to MAFF and to SE. Reciprocal arrangements will operate for communicating the results of research and surveys, and for providing details of any proposed action to protect consumer safety, food authenticity or human nutrition.

35. MAFF and SE will continue to co-operate in taking forward proposals for a UK Food Standards Agency which will assume responsibility for advising and assisting Health Ministers and the devolved authorities on food safety and standards matters. They will keep each other routinely informed of any developments that concern or may affect the preparations for the proposed Agency.

36. The above has been agreed in conjunction with those parts of the corresponding Department of Health/Scottish Executive Health Department Concordats that relate to food safety matters.


37. MAFF and SE will inform each other immediately in the event of an emergency in the agriculture, fisheries and food area which could have an impact across the border. They will work together closely to ensure that any emergency is dealt with effectively and will co-operate fully on any cross-border action required. Lead responsibility for co-ordinating action will be normally assumed by the administration most affected by the emergency. Separate procedures operate for animal health matters.

38. Co-operation will extend to emergency planning and major exercises. MAFF and SE will inform each other of major emergency exercises in good time, with at least six weeks notice if the participation of the other is requested. MAFF will have lead responsibility for the NATO Food and Agriculture Planning Committee.

Exchange of information, statistics and research

39 In accordance with paragraphs 9 and 10 of the overarching MOU, both administrations will aim to provide each other with as full and open access as possible to scientific, technical and policy information, including statistics and research, subject to any freedom of information and confidentiality requirements.

40. In order to meet international obligations and national interests, MAFF and SE will co-operate to ensure that agreed statistics for the UK as a whole are readily available in line with the overarching Concordat on Statistics. They will work together to ensure that UK statistics are relevant, timely, coherent, reliable and collected and compiled in a way which represents good value for money, and are consistent as far as data sources allow. MAFF, in consultation with SE, will usually be responsible for compiling national data on a UK basis and disseminating the results. However there may be occasions when it is agreed that SE will undertake this task. A subject-specific concordat between MAFF's Economic and Statistics Group and SE will outline arrangements relating to the provision of statistical and economic information.

41. Regarding research matters, MAFF and SE will continue to commission research anywhere in the UK on the basis of scientific need. They will work together to ensure that their respective research programmes are properly co-ordinated with each other, so that there is no unnecessary duplication or overlap and so that opportunities for joint planning and joint funding are pursued.

Pesticides and plant protection products

42. MAFF and SE agree to co-operate to ensure that unified pesticides and plant protection product regimes continue to operate in Scotland. An agency agreement to cover the functions of the Pesticides Safety Directorate and a subject-specific concordat will apply.

Plant varieties and seeds

43. MAFF and SE agree the need for consistency in the application of the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants to national plant breeders' rights.

44. MAFF and SE also agree that the Plant Variety Rights Office will continue to operate on a UK basis in the administration and grant of national plant breeders' rights.

45. In the interest of sharing knowledge and expertise and efficiency of operation, MAFF and SE agree that the arrangements for reaching decisions on National Listing of plant varieties will continue to be taken on a UK basis.

46. Detailed arrangements on National Listing matters and on the Plant Varieties Rights Office and Controller will be outlined in a subject-specific concordat.

47. Detailed arrangements concerning policy on the marketing of seed potatoes will be outlined in a subject-specific concordat.

Organisations operating in Great Britain or the United Kingdom

48. Various organisations deal with matters within the responsibilities both of the UK Government and of SE. MAFF and SE affirm their commitment, working together where appropriate, to ensure that such bodies continue to operate effectively. In some cases such bodies deal with devolved matters, in some cases with non-devolved matters, and in others with a mixture of the two.

49. MAFF and SE also recognise that there will be circumstances where it will be appropriate for them to undertake activities on each other's behalf.

50. MAFF and SE agree that detailed agreements for some individual organisations operating within the agriculture and fisheries area should be set out in subject-specific concordats. These are listed in Annex A. Non-statutory bodies (e.g. some scientific advisory committees) in which MAFF and SE share an interest, and which will continue to operate on a GB or UK basis, are listed in Annex B. For these bodies, Scottish Ministers have inherited any rights formerly belonging to the Secretary of State for Scotland in areas such as setting the remits and making appointments. Any further detailed arrangements required in respect of individual non-statutory bodies will be laid down separately, by agreement.


51. MAFF and SE agree the need for co-ordination arrangements covering all aspects of fisheries management to ensure the effective discharge of UK obligations under EU rules and international agreements, and co-operation in both marine and freshwater fisheries.

52. Within the framework of the other sections of this Concordat, SE will administer fishing vessels registered in Scottish Ports and MAFF will administer fishing vessels registered in English ports. SE will also be responsible for applying and enforcing fisheries regulations within the Scottish zone of British Fisheries Limits.

53. Detailed arrangements for fisheries are set out in a subject-specific concordat between the Fisheries Departments of MAFF and SE. In addition, there will be a subject-specific concordat dealing with fish health.

The Intervention Board and the Forestry Commission

54. A subject-specific concordat between all 4 UK Agriculture Departments in respect of the Intervention Board is being drawn up. Likewise, a subject-specific concordat between MAFF, the Scottish Executive and the Forestry Commission will apply.

National Tide Gauge Network

55. MAFF and SE agree that MAFF will operate the National Tide Gauge Network in Scotland with SE paying MAFF an appropriate contribution towards the cost of running and maintaining the Network.

Reaching agreement

56. MAFF and SE commit themselves, wherever possible, to conduct business through normal administrative channels, either at official or Ministerial level. The Secretary of State for Scotland, whose functions include the promotion of good relations between the UK Government and SE, should be consulted in any significant case of disagreement.

57. Where a dispute cannot be resolved bilaterally, or through the offices of the Secretary of State, the matter may be referred formally to the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) Secretariat, subject to the guidance n the remit and terms of reference of the JMC. (This is set out in the agreement on the JMC - a supplementary agreement to the MOU.) One of the functions of the JMC is to seek to resolve differences.

Operation and review

58. The signatories to this Concordat (or designated representatives) will meet at least annually to discuss bilateral relations and mechanisms for co-ordination outlined within this document. The terms and conditions of the Concordat will be formally reviewed after one year, three years and thereafter at five-year intervals. Either party may request an additional review if they consider it necessary. Any changes made to the Concordat must be with the agreement of both parties.


Organisations operating in Great Britain or the United Kingdom for which subject-specific concordats are being drawn up between the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Office of the Scottish Executive

  • Advisory Committee on Pesticides

  • British Potato Council

  • British Wool Marketing Board

  • Food From Britain

  • Home Grown Cereals Authority

  • Horticultural Development Council

  • Meat and Livestock Commission and Meat and Livestock Commission Consumers Committee

  • Milk Development Council: concordat between MAFF, SE and The National Assembly for Wales Agriculture Department (NAWAD)

  • Plant Varieties and Seeds Tribunal

  • Sea Fish Industry Authority

  • United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards

  • Wine Standards Board of the Vintners' Company


Non-statutory bodioes operating on a Great Britain or United Kingdom basis in which the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Scottish Executive share an interest*

  • Advisory Committee on Animal Feedingstuffs

  • Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification

  • Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification Technical Sub-Committee

  • Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food

  • Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes

  • Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment

  • Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy

  • Committee on Mutagenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment

  • Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment

  • Farm Animal Welfare Council

  • Food Advisory Committee

  • Interdepartmental Group on Genetic Modification

  • National Food Survey Committee

  • Pesticides Forum

  • Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee

  • United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards

* The proposed Food Standards Agency may, in due course, also share an interest in some of these bodies along with the Department of Health and the Scottish Executive Health Department

3 November 1999

Page published: 11 November 1999