25 December 1998

Extra support for Scots from CAP reform

REFORM of the EU common agricultural policy will be done and dusted by the end of March and will yield Scottish farmers an extra £135m a year in taxpayer support, according to Scottish NFU president George Lyon.

"A special meeting of European heads of state has been called for March 25 and we expect the Agenda 2000 reforms to be signed at that meeting," he says.

Two years ago the union forecast that CAP reform would cost Scottish farmers £100m a year. The turnaround, says Mr Lyon, has been caused by the crash in commodity prices in the past 12 months.

"We are now more or less at world prices for most of our products and reductions in commodity support levels will have a minimal effect. The compensation for price cuts will add about £135m a year in direct support payments," he says.

That would take taxpayer support to about £650m a year, or £130 for every man, woman and child in Scotland. The union president accepts that the figure makes the industry defensive especially because the support is transparent.

"What we have to get over is that more and more of the money is linked to caring for the countryside and that we are delivering in that direction," he says. &#42