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31/01/14 17:36

PM refuses better deal for Scotland’s farmers

CAP funds not being returned to Scotland.

Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead, has reacted angrily to the UK Government’s latest refusal to allocate €223 million of European farm funding to Scotland in full.

First Minister Alex Salmond has today [Friday] received a response from the UK Government to his letter to the Prime Minister in which he set out the overwhelming case for the full Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) external convergence uplift, worth €223 million, which the UK only receives because of Scotland’s very low per hectare payment rates.

The Prime Minister failed to respond directly, with DEFRA Minister Owen Paterson refusing the case made by the First Minister – which has cross-party and industry support – that the convergence uplift should come to Scotland.

Speaking from Dingwall ahead of a public discussion on the benefits of independence to rural Scotland, Mr Lochhead said:

“This is an issue which where Scotland speaks as one – across the parties in the Scottish Parliament and with the support of industry, we have taken the compelling and reasoned arguments for Scotland’s farmers to receive the money they are due right to the top of the UK Government. It is bitterly disappointing that the Prime Minister and DEFRA have knocked us back, leaving Scotland with the lowest CAP budgets in Europe.

“We are now consulting on how to implement the new CAP, which clearly would be much less difficult had Scotland received the full convergence uplift – something that received cross party support again in the Scottish Parliament earlier this week.

“The Prime Minister – in rejecting the concerns of Scotland on this matter - illustrates yet again the complete failure of the UK to protect the needs of Scottish farming. Only the powers of independence and direct representation in Europe will ensure a fair deal for Scotland’s farmers.”

In his December letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Salmond said Defra had ignored reasoned arguments that the full CAP external convergence uplift totalling €223 million should be paid to farmers in Scotland. This is despite this money being earned in Scotland and the policy enjoying cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament.

Convergence uplift payments are made to benefit those parts of the EU with the lowest per hectare payment rates. But the recent Defra decision has seen the full uplift withheld from Scotland and shared pro rata across the four nations of the United Kingdom, despite UK only qualifying for this additional funding because of Scotland’s very low per hectare payment rates.

Were Scotland already an independent member of the European Union, Scottish farmers would be set to benefit from an extra €1 billion over the next CAP programme, thanks to an EU rule that ensures no member state shall receive less than €196 per hectare by 2019.