By a Newsnet reporter
Angus MP Mike Weir has accused the Scotland Office of being “asleep at the wheel” and not understanding the dangers to Scotland’s farming industry shown by the aspiration of the current DEFRA secretary to end direct payments out of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Mr Weir raised the issue during Scottish Questions in the Commons and said that the Scotland Office Minister David Mundell clearly did not understand the importance of the issue.
In a letter sent recently to Defra Secretary of State, Owen Paterson MP, Alan McNaughton – president of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers – warned that the UK must reconsider its position on CAP reform ‘before it’s too late’.
Mr McNaughton wrote: “The latest outcome from the Council of Ministers enables the UK to make coupled payments up to 7%. While this is an improvement on the current structure, it falls well short of what we need to prevent further shrinkage of our industry.”
Noting that some EU member states had secured the flexibility to apply coupled payments of up to 12%, Mr McNaughton complained that the actions of the UK government were putting Scottish farmers at a disadvantage.
He added: “We are at a loss to understand why our ambitions and opportunities should be thwarted by a 7% ceiling when other European Governments are able to support their livestock industries to a significantly greater degree.”
Commenting on the matter Mr Weir said:
“The Scotland Office are again asleep at the wheel and failing to understand that the policy being pursued by the UK government could have a very significant adverse impact on farming in Scotland.
“The DEFRA secretary has made clear his view that such payments should cease and matters be left entirely to the market, a view that has been rejected by both the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government.
“Removing direct payments for farm businesses would lead to bankruptcy for many and undermine Scotland’s ability to produce food and safeguard rural communities.
“Agriculture is a vital industry for Scotland and the recent scandal over horsemeat has shown the need to have a strong and sustainable farming industry, a fact recognised and consistently pursued by the Scottish Government.
“The attitude of DEFRA illustrates, yet again, the need for Scotland to have the full powers of independence to ensure we have a real voice in Europe to protect our vital interests, rather than DEFRA acting against the interests of Scotland.”