CAP debate: Scottish ministers calling government decision unfair and disgraceful
NewsTuesday 12 November 2013
Ministers in Scotland and England have been arguing over the distribution of European subsidies in the farming sector in Scotland.
The UK government made the announcement on Friday stating that the payments through the common agricultural policy (CAP) would be spread across the UK.
It also said that the Scottish farmers would be getting a better deal on the CAP as a part of the UK.
However, NFU Scotland and the Scottish government have said that the extra money, which is known as convergence uplift, should have been given, in its entirety, to Scotland.
Ministers from Scotland are claiming that farmers situated north of the border will be deprived of hundreds of millions of euros in subsidies, claiming they were “rightfully theirs”. They also added that the only reason the UK qualified for the uplift was because of Scotland’s low payments under the current system.
Under the new deal, the farmers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, will all receive the same proportion of the CAP budget over the next seven years as they currently receive.
The European CAP budget was cut recently and the direct payments will now go down by 1.6% across all of the devolved nations.
However, the Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, has said that the UK government was willing to offer the Scottish government the chance to provide an extra “coupled payments” of up to 10% in its livestock sector, as opposed to its allocated 8%.
Richard Lochhead, the Rural Affairs Secretary, has described Westminster’s decision to share out the pot across the UK as a “disgrace”.
Speaking to the BBC he said: "I do not know how UK ministers will be able to look Scottish farmers in the eye after this outrageous decision that amounts to pocketing Scotland's farm payments.
"I am aghast that the new secretary of state for Scotland can welcome the UK government's decision to give Scotland the lowest farm payments in the whole of Europe and the UK.
"If Scotland had been a member state in our own right during those negotiations, we would have benefited from a one billon euro uplift.
"We have been denied that uplift and now we are even being denied up to 230 million euro uplift that the UK gets because of Scotland."
Also commenting on the situation, NFU Scotland said that farmers north of the border have been dealt a “bitter blow” by failing to win an immediate boost in European cash.
Nigel Miller, the President of NFU Scotland said: "While [we] have been unable to secure a key element from this deal, there is enough within it and the commitments made that could deliver real, long-term benefits to Scottish farming if the Scottish government and Westminster can agree."
Alex Fergusson, the Scottish Conservative rural affairs spokesperson, said that he was disappointed that Scotland didn’t receive all of the extra convergence money.
However, he also made the point that Scottish farmers receive, on average, £9,000 more per head than their counterparts in other areas of the UK.
He went on to say: "It is therefore entirely understandable that farmers' representatives from other parts of the UK robustly opposed our argument that convergence uplift should come to Scotland."
The Scottish Labour rural affairs spokesperson, Claire Baker, also got involved in the debate, saying: "Whilst I am disappointed that Scotland has not received an immediate uplift as called for on a cross-party basis by MSPs, it is important that all sides continue to try and work together to achieve a fair deal for farmers across Scotland."
Picture: Andy Arthur