Clear steer urgently required
Lochhead pushes for answers and an end to vagueness in Brussels.
Getting clarity on a higher level of coupled support in Scotland and the UK’s proposed budget review were the two main points discussed at the meeting between Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead and UK Farming Minister George Eustice in Brussels this morning.
Speaking immediately after the meeting, Mr Lochhead said:
"I was pleased to be able to meet the Minister to press home the need for urgent confirmation that Scotland has the option of using up to 13% of the Scottish budget for coupled payments to support our livestock sectors.
"This is about tying in support payments to activity and production, and is all about how we use our own budget so will this not cost the rest of the UK a penny. The UK Government now want to have written confirmation from the Commission, over and above the verbal green light we have already received, confirming it's up to the Member State how it uses its flexibility and as long as the Member State's 8% limit is not breached then the UK's internal arrangements are not a problem.
"Given that we are about to make decisions about CAP implementation in Scotland, we need this issue settled as a matter of urgency. I fear that if the UK keep going back to the Commission asking for past assurances to be repeated then understandably we will lose its goodwill and co-operation.
"We already have a verbal agreement - which George Eustice and I personally received - and I am keen that the UK Government give us a steer on figures while they now seek their written confirmation. Scotland's farmers need clarity and for the UK to stop sending us round in circles.
"I also asked for an early reply to my letter to Owen Paterson on the promised budget review.
"I was informed in writing by Mr Paterson that any changes to the internal UK budget split would not take effect until after 2020 therefore not until the post-2020 CAP budget is agreed.
"This of course renders the promised review virtually meaningless and won't return one extra penny to Scotland from the £190m convergence uplift that was held back from Scotland's farmers. However, there remains some confusion because George Eustice appeared to suggest recently that if the review recommended it, then there could be an uplift prior to 2020. Confusion and vagueness reigns and I am not happy with the way in which Scotland's industry is being treated on this issue."