2 November 2001

EUs no to plea for 90% LFA safety net

SCOTLANDS rural development minister, Ross Finnie, has failed to win EU approval to maintain the safety net for the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme at 90% for next year.

On Sept 11, Mr Finnie said he would seek EU approval to allow the safety net, introduced this year to ease the transition from headage to area-based payments, to be maintained at 90% for 2001-02, 10% higher than previously agreed.

He said the Scottish Executive would fund the additional £2.1m needed to do this.

But on Wednesday, EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler formally rejected the proposal, for fear of setting a costly precedent.

Recent Scottish Executive analysis showed that the switch to area-based payments had left 64% of Scotlands farmers worse off.

Mr Finnie said he was still determined to do what he could. "I have asked my officials to talk urgently to the commission to explore what changes can be permitted for 2002."

The commissions rejection had left farmers reeling, said NFU Scotland president, Jim Walker. "We cannot allow this decision to be the end of the story and we expect the Scottish Executive to deliver on its promises of solutions." &#42