UK Government shortchanging Scotland’s farmers

3
716

  By a Newsnet reporter
 
Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs has this week described negotiating with his counterparts at UK level as “frustrating”.
 
Speaking to The Scottish Farmer magazine on the subject of trying to secure a fair deal for Scotland’s farmers in the current round of EU Common Agricultural Policy reforms, Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead stated: “It is frustrating that Scotland has to devote so much energy on getting our message across to the UK government never mind the rest of Europe.”

By a Newsnet reporter
 
Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs has this week described negotiating with his counterparts at UK level as “frustrating”.
 
Speaking to The Scottish Farmer magazine on the subject of trying to secure a fair deal for Scotland’s farmers in the current round of EU Common Agricultural Policy reforms, Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead stated: “It is frustrating that Scotland has to devote so much energy on getting our message across to the UK government never mind the rest of Europe.”

Leading with the front page headline “Defra doesn’t listen”, The Scottish Farmer – effectively the most read newspaper in Scottish agriculture –  goes on to explain that DEFRA, the UK govt Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, is dedicated to minimising farm subsidies (from the EU) and has thus become a “serious obstacle to Scotland’s efforts to win its livestock sector a decent deal in Europe.”

The frustration cited by Mr Lochhead, centres around the fact that under the current EU CAP regime, Scotland’s farmers receive less support than their colleagues in other European nations. The Scottish Government believes that it is vital that Scotland’s farmers can operate on a level playing field with farmers across Europe, a belief which is at the core of Mr Lochheads position on the future of the CAP.

Unfortunately, with just three weeks to go until the European Council is due to set the CAP budget for the next four year CAP period, it would appear that the Scottish Government, and the needs of Scottish agriculture are being ignored by UK officials.

Prime Minister David Cameron is set to represent the whole of the UK, as the EU member state, at the crucial budget talks. Currently, the UK Government is pressing for the overall CAP budget to be substantially reduced while the Scottish Government argues that, in a fair system, Scotland should see an increase in direct payments and rural development funds given the challenges faced by Scottish farmers.

Mr Lochead has now written to the UK Government demanding that Scotland’s poor budget allocations are made a negotiating priority.

Mr Lochhead will once again highlight figures which show that other countries already do far better out of the CAP than Scotland. For instance, Ireland receives more than twice as much in direct payments as Scotland even though it’s a similar country. The Czech Republic, which has less farmland than Scotland, also receives far more than Scotland.

Mr Lochhead said: “These are crucial times for Europe’s farmers with the budget for the future CAP due to be set in a matter of weeks.

“I have always said that what I want to see is a fair deal for Scotland’s farmers, something that has not been delivered in the past.

“The existing system lacks fairness and has left Scotland shortchanged.”

”Political deals created the current unsatisfactory budget arrangements and political deals can put them right. The question is – are UK Ministers willing to strike deals for Scotland? There is no sign of that, so far.

“The vast majority of farming sectors in every other country have Member State governments fighting their corner in Brussels yet Scotland relies on UK Ministers that have so far refused to pick up the cudgels on behalf of Scots farmers and wider rural Scotland.

“The only way that Scotland can win a fair deal this time around is if UK Ministers make such an outcome a negotiating priority. UK Ministers have so far turned a deaf ear to Scotland’s plea for fairness – despite the clarion calls from Scottish sectors. Instead, all we hear about is budget cuts rather than budget fairness.”