Scottish farmers win Brussels’ backing on CAP reform money

EU commissioner Dacian Ciolos has backed Scottish plans to stamp out inactive “slipper” farmers and boosted the call for more coupled support payments.

Scotland’s farm minister Richard Lochhead claimed that a short meeting with Mr Ciolos on 17 February had brought clarity on the two key areas of CAP implementation.

Mr Lochhead said: “Under our plans, land on which there is no activity will be ineligible for payments under the new CAP from 2015. It has been a priority for us to ensure that only active farmers benefit and we have worked hard to find a solution.

“It is good news for all hardworking farmers.”

According to Mr Lochhead, the commissioner also gave the green light to greater flexibility within a member state on coupled payments.

Under CAP reform, member states can use up to 8% of their allotted EU money on support payments that are linked to production.

The UK government decided not to include any coupled payments in its CAP plan but the devolved parliament in Scotland used its powers to take up the 8% level. The Scottish government has gone even further in pressing for the coupled payment allocation in Scotland to increase to 13%. The Scots argued that because England had a 0% rate, the percentage rate in Scotland could be raised without pushing the whole of the UK over its 8% threshold. It is this point Mr Ciolos has backed.

“The UK allowing increased coupled support in Scotland will make a huge difference to our beef farmers in particular, and I have already written to the UK government requesting the option to increase coupled support to 13% be made available to us,” Mr Lochhead said.

“However, we must remember that giving Scotland the option to increase our coupled support will not cost the rest of the UK a penny as it only allows us greater flexibility in how we use our own budgets.

“I will be following this up urgently to get confirmation from the UK now we know the EU is on side.”

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