Winter landscape in the Scottish Borders© Andrew Wilson / Scottish Viewpoint/REX/Shutterstock

Scottish farmers and politicians have welcomed a commitment by Defra secretary Michael Gove to establish an independent review of so-called “convergence funding” – money the Scots claim should be going exclusively to them.

The fund, valued at about £160m over six years, was allocated to the UK in 2013 due to the below-average area payments in Scotland.

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However, Defra, following an extensive consultation, decided to share the money across all four regions of the UK, arguing that total subsidy receipts by Scottish farmers were actually higher than the UK average.

Scotland’s rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing has repeatedly demanded a rethink, and this week secured an agreement with Mr Gove for an independent review.

“We also committed to agreeing the review’s remit, timescales, process and personnel by the end of the year. I welcome this much-needed progress,” Mr Ewing said.

“Clearly, we are still some way off from having the £160m due to Scottish farming returned – that remains my objective,” he added.

“Our claim is against the UK government, not the hard-working farmers in other parts of the UK. It is about righting a clear wrong and setting a baseline for future agricultural funding with the UK.”

Fair baseline

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said there had never been any justification for the UK government to share the convergence uplift across the whole of the UK based on historic allocations.

“This approach was always out of line with the European Commission’s rationale for the uplift.”

NFU Scotland is also demanding that post-Brexit agricultural budget splits between the four devolved regions of the UK should be agreed now, ahead of the UK leaving the EU. 

“Ring-fencing this budget would provide some certainty in uncertain times, and the financial base upon which to build future Scottish agricultural policy,” said Mr McCornick.