SNFU to fight cuts in direct subsidies

17 December 1999

SNFU to fight cuts in direct subsidies

SCOTTISH NFU president, Jim Walker, is determined to put as much pressure as possible on the Scottish Parliament to stop it imposing the same cuts in direct subsidy payments that were announced in England last week.

"Nick Brown [farm minister] is calling this modulation. But let no one be under any illusion, it is a tax on all farmers, big or small. Modulation means capping support from some and redistributing the money to others. This is not what we have here," he said.

Mr Walker added that he found it extremely difficult to believe that the Treasury had given a cast-iron guarantee that it would match the money taken from farmers over the next six years to create a new funding pool for rural development. "It surprises me that the English NFU has capitulated on this," he added.

Scottish farm minister, Ross Finnie, who has always been lukewarm about cutting direct payments, is still working with his officials to put together a consultation paper. A Scottish Executive spokesman said the document should be released before Christmas and confirmed that it would be based on the same cuts proposed south of the border – 2.5% in 2001, rising to 4.5% in 2005/06.

Mr Walker believes that Mr Finnie has already been given guarantees from London that, should the proposal be adopted, Scotland would retain the flexibility to decide how best to spend the money taken from its own farmers.

"For example, we could see money being used here to fund a national collection service for fallen stock," said Mr Walker.

Even so, he remains opposed to the concept. "The short-term economic state of our industry does not warrant any cuts in direct support payments or the resulting redistribution of cash we would see with rural development projects." &#42

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