Scottish farmers will continue to receive coupled payments if future CAP allows it, DEFRA farm minister David Heath has confirmed.
Speaking at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh, Mr Heath stressed he had not changed his stance on coupled payments – originally stating in February, at the NFU Scotland AGM, that “unused” coupled payments would continue to go north of the border.
“I have not changed my mind at all. We have this agreement at the moment, with Scotland using what we have in terms of headroom with coupled payments,” he said.
Whether or not this continued, would depend on what was decided at EU level on CAP reform, said Mr Heath.
He stressed the UK government was not in favour of increasing the percentage of CAP budget allowed for coupled payments in case it resulted in increased production in other EU countries, which may distort the market.
Following a meeting with the minister, NFU Scotland vice-president Rob Livesey said coupled payments were key to encouraging both beef and hill sheep farmers to stabilise and rebuild livestock numbers.
The Union had asked Heath to make sure DEFRA worked to ensure Europe permitted coupling and at a level that would make a different to Scotland’s livestock sector, he said.
Coupled payments explained
- At present UK CAP budget is allocated and then distributed between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales via internal convergence. Scotland is the only country which receives coupled payments, the overall total of what they can use from their allocated CAP money decided by the coupled payment percentage agreed on at EU level.For example, if CAP allows 15% coupled payments and that equates to £150m of the overall UK CAP budget, then Scotland would be allowed to use £150m as a proportion of their overall budget allocation, due to the fact they are the only country using coupled payments.