Coupled support disappointment
Europe rules out higher rate for Scotland.
Scotland will not have the option of a higher rate of coupled support in the new Common Agricultural Policy.
Scottish proposals use the UK's flexibility to offer up to 13 per cent coupled support were given the green light in February by Commissioner Ciolos in a face-to-face meeting in Brussels with Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead and UK Minister George Eustice.
The Scottish Government has now received a letter from Commissioner Ciolos which states the move is not permitted under EU regulations.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:
“I just this morning received a letter from Commissioner Ciolos confirming that Scotland is shackled to the UK’s rate of couple support and permitted to go higher. It is unacceptable that the letter was sent to us a day after the information it contained was made public through a third party press release.
“We have gone from seeking to use the UK’s flexibility, to being told we can have it but the UK refusing to accept that at face value and now the Commissioner reversing his position.
“Commissioner Ciolos could not have been clearer or more certain when he gave both the UK Minister George Eustice and myself a very positive assurance in our face-to-face meeting in Brussels in February. I find the complete reversal of his position, and the way this whole thing has been handled, utterly astonishing and unacceptable. For the green light to be turned red at this point without any explanation for the change of heart is infuriating.
“I will now write to Commissioner Ciolos with an immediate request for a formal meeting – and I expect to have the backing of the UK Government if necessary.
“Scottish farmers are the big losers here yet again. They have been condemned to the lowest payment rates in Europe by the UK Government, and have been denied the full €223 million convergence uplift that is rightly theirs.
“Now the possibility of flexibility within the UK – something that was available under the last CAP – is no longer an option.
“We’re told we can’t have higher coupled support because of regionalisation but the convergence uplift – which was earned by Scotland’s hard-working farmers - has gone across the whole Member State.
“Having one rule for coupling and another for the convergence uplift might suit the UK Government, but they cannot and should not have it both ways. UK Ministers hit Scotland’s CAP budget with a big stick and dangled before the industry the possibility of flexibility on coupled support and a mid-term budget review – but both these apparent concessions have been exposed as nothing more than mythical carrots.
“Although Scotland deserves both the €223 million convergence uplift and the ability to use more than 8 per cent of our budget for coupled support, if we are not getting the latter we must be given the former.
“The Scottish Government has consistently stood up for Scottish farmers with the limited powers we have but it’s clear we are being disadvantaged by arrangements designed to suit the preferences of others rather than Scotland’s.
“Our ability to implement the new CAP in Scotland to support Scottish farming and our livestock sector in particular has been well and truly damaged by UK Ministers and the European Commission’s volte face.”