A cross-party letter has been sent to the UK Government calling for about €230 million in extra EU farming subsidies to be allocated to Scotland.
The additional Common Agricultural Policy cash, known as the ‘convergence uplift’, is worth up to €60 million a year – the equivalent of about €230 million over the whole budget period – and the only reason that the UK qualifies for the uplift is because of Scotland’s low payments under the current system.
Addressed to the UK Government’s Rural Affairs Secretary Owen Paterson and copied to Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, the cross-party letter follows a recent debate in the Scottish Parliament where MSPs agreed that the UK’s full uplift should come to Scotland in its entirety.
The letter – signed by Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment; Claire Baker, Rural Affairs Spokesperson for Scottish Labour; Alex Fergusson, Rural Affairs Spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives; and Tavish Scott, Rural Affairs Spokesperson for the Scottish Liberal Democrats – states:
“We are writing to express cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament on an issue relating to the imminent decision on the within-UK allocation of the UK’s CAP budget receipts for 2014 to 2020: namely, the need for the UK’s external convergence receipts under CAP Pillar 1 to be allocated to Scotland.
“These receipts only exist because of Scotland’s current position. All other parts of the UK are above the threshold set by the EU for external convergence, and it is only because of Scotland’s extremely low average level of Pillar 1 payments per hectare that the UK as a whole fell below the threshold and qualified for an external convergence uplift. Passing on this uplift to Scotland will also not entail any deductions at all for farming colleagues in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.
“The European methodology focussed entirely on per-hectare levels of payment, and the within-UK decision must be on the same basis.
“It is helpful that the European Commission has quantified the uplift precisely, so that it is possible to know exactly how much funding is involved and avoid any risk of cutting into funding which should correctly go to farmers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“We urge you to acknowledge that the only fair outcome on the external convergence funding is for it to come to Scotland, the only part of the UK to be below the EU’s threshold. We would welcome an opportunity to meet with you to discuss this important subject.”