A firm pledge to ensure that Scottish livestock farmers would not be disadvantaged by a move to an area based subsidy payment system has been made by DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman during a visit to the Borders farm of NFU Scotland president, Nigel Miller.
In the week when a major gulf emerged between the Westminster and Holyrood Governments over the timing of a referendum on Scottish independence Mrs Spelman insisted that she did not share the fears of Scottish livestock farmers that they would be the most significant losers under the new CAP, and argued their interests would be best served by having the UK Government continuing to negotiate with one voice in Europe.
She added she hoped everyone would learn from England’s painful experience of moving to an area basis payment scheme.
“Other countries which are ‘livestock heavy’ are going to have the same experience as everyone moves to an area-based payment system. I will make absolutely sure that Scotland is not disadvantaged.”
Mrs Spelman bristled at being reminded Scotland had special needs, with 85% of the country classified as LFA.
“Don’t think UK Ministers don’t understand that,” she stated.
“I have always impressed on Commissioner Ciolos the significance of the high proportion of farms in Scotland that are LFA. That pertains to other parts of the UK as well – Wales and Northern Ireland – and even England is not without LFA. So I’ll work very hard to make sure we get that taken into account.”
NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller said after the visit that he welcomed the new dialogue which had opened up with the UK Government.
“We have always had a special relationship with the Scottish Government which has served us well but this additional role with the UK Government is very important,” he said.
Mr Miller added the date of Mrs Spelman’s meeting had been fixed before the referendum issue became a hot topic.