Scotland seeks clarity on farm payments

Scottish farmers say it remains unclear how they will continue to receive CAP funding – despite a UK Treasury pledge that direct payments will remain at least until 2020.

NFU Scotland has called for clarity from Scottish finance secretary Derek Mackay over the short-term support arrangements for farmers and crofters north of the border.

Scottish farmers needed to be sure that they will be financially supported throughout the period of negotiation as the UK exited the EU, said the union.

See also: Doubts remain despite CAP funding pledge

It follows a promise from UK chancellor Philip Hammond that Pillar 1 direct payments will continue for agriculture until the end of the Multiannual Financial Framework in 2020.

In the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, Scottish government indicated it was open to the idea of protecting spending on Scottish CAP support so long as the Treasury committed funds.

With this intention now signalled by the chancellor, NFU Scotland president Allan Bowie said it was important that the Scottish government followed suit.

Confident platform

Doing so would provide a confident platform for Scottish farmers and crofters that is in line with their counterparts elsewhere in the UK, said Mr Bowie.

NFU Scotland is now seeking reassurances over future Scottish arrangements for Pillar 1 direct support, greening payments and headage schemes for beef calves and hill sheep.

It is also seeking reassurances over Pillar 2 payments made under the Scotland Rural Development Programme which deliver Less Favoured Areas Support and agri-environment measures.

Writing to Mr MacKay, NFU Scotland president Allan Bowie said the Treasury statement only went so far way in providing assurances to farmers and crofters in Scotland.

He added: “Clarity, confidence and stability will be key for our farming and crofting members as they face the uncertain prospect of life outside of the EU.”

Mr Bowie said the Treasury pledge of guarantee direct support to 2020 would allow farmers to continue to produce and invest in their businesses – at least in the short to medium term.

Questions remain

But he warned: “Clearly questions remain on how this money will come to Scotland.”

It was unclear whether the money might arrive via the Barnett Formula or other means. There were also questions over some structural funds and elements of Pillar 2, said Mr Bowie.

“It was clear from the Chancellor’s statement that he expected each of the devolved governments to use the committed Pillar 1 funds for agriculture as had been guaranteed before the referendum.”

Mr Bowie said: “For Scottish farmers and crofters, we would welcome Mr Mackay’s confirmation that these funds will indeed be delivered as budgeted.”

Funds delivered through Scotland’s Rural Development Programme were hugely important because of the economic, environmental and social goods they delivered.

That merited clarity on committed Scottish government spending on Pillar 2 schemes.

“The Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) – around two-thirds of which is funded by Scottish government – is an important example of this.”

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