Moray’s farmers denied share of €223m Euro bounty

Richard Lochhead

Moray’s farming community will be worse off as a result of the UK Government retaining around €223million in EU subsidies.

That is the view taken by local MSP Richard Lochhead, who speaking in his capacity as Rural Affairs Secretary at the Scottish Government is attacking a Westminster decision to withhold the additional funding that is intended to be paid to Scottish farmers.

The additional European Union ‘convergence uplift’ funding was intended to benefit Scottish farmers with the lowest payment rates – however, the UK Government announced last week that it would not be passed on to Scotland which has the lowest per-hectare payments in Europe.

Mr Lochhead explained:  “In this decision, the UK Government is trying to defend the indefensible.

“I thought former DEFRA Minister Hilary Benn’s decision not to compensate sheep farmers for foot-and-mouth was terrible, but this is worse.

“The EU brought in the convergence uplift to benefit those farmers with the lowest per hectare rates. If Scotland had been an independent EU member state, we would have benefited from a €1billon uplift between 2014-2020.

“In the event, Scotland’s low payments meant the UK qualified for an uplift of €223million over the whole budget period.”

The MSP added that had it not been for Scotland the rest of the UK would receive nothing extra – and that being the case it was only proper that the UK’s convergence uplift should go directly to Scotland.

He added: “This view received cross-party support in this Parliament in a debate last month, and the cross-party letter on this matter that was sent to the UK Government soon after.

“However, the UK Government announced last Friday that the uplift will not be allocated to Scotland. Instead, it has been divided among all parts of the UK – even though England, Wales and Northern Ireland are already above Europe’s low payment rate threshold.

“This decision goes against the intentions of the EU. It defies the wishes of this Parliament – and it takes away from Scottish farmers and crofters resources which should be theirs, and on which their livelihoods depend.

“No surprise then that Scottish farmers are bitterly disappointed by the decision. The UK Government’s arguments to defend its position are spurious.

“Scotland’s farmers and crofters, our environment and our rural communities are worse off as a result of the UK Government’s CAP negotiations and decisions. This deeply regrettable position means we have tough decisions ahead.

“I deeply regret the appalling budget position we are in due to the UK Government not making Scottish agriculture a priority, and I thank Parliament for its efforts in arguing the case to London.”