Following last week’s announcement that Scotland will receive the same proportion of the UK CAP budget over the next seven years as we currently receive, and therefore that the convergence uplift will not be directed to Scottish farmers, there has been widespread condemnation of Owen Paterson’s decision.
Many industry organisations, including Scottish Land & Estates, have joined together to write to Owen Paterson to urge him to re-think the decision. These organisations argue that retaining the historic budget proportions goes against one of the main principles of the current reform: amore equitable distribution of direct support between Member States. The political deal on the CAP put in place a system to reduce the differences in payment rates across Europe, but the UK government has chosen not to adhere to the spirit of that agreement.
Speaking in Parliament, Richard Lochhead said that the withholding of millions of euros of subsidy from Scotland’s farmers was ‘indefensible’. He said:
“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 €1 billon uplift between 2014-2020. In the event, Scotland’s low payments meant the UK qualified for an uplift of €223 million over the whole budget period. Were it not for Scotland, the rest of the UK would get nothing extra - and therefore it is only right and proper that the UK’s convergence uplift should come to Scotland. 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.