Swinney calls for Scottish farmers support
Perthshire North MSP, Mr John Swinney, has said that DEFRA must choose whether to “back or betray” Scottish farmers, and has demanded that they receive £160m in funding to which they are entitled.
The call comes as Conservative MP Robert Goodwill, the newly-appointed UK Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food visits the North-east tomorrow. Mr Goodwill was appointed following the resignation of former Minister George Eustice, a casualty of the latest round of Tory in-fighting over Brexit.
In October 2018, DEFRA, under pressure from the Scottish Government, announced a long-overdue review into funding for farmers post-Brexit, but have repeatedly failed to address Scottish farmers’ concerns about Westminster's decision to withhold £160m in convergence payments. This money is an uplift of EU CAP payments which the UK received because of the low per hectare rate of support received by Scottish farmers.
Commenting, Mr Swinney said:
“Scottish farmers have not forgotten that the UK Tory Government has withheld £160m in funding rightfully due to them. It is solely because of Scotland that the UK, as the Member State, qualified for this funding.
“The new Minister has an opportunity early in his tenure to set right this historic wrong. With future arrangements for agriculture still unclear amidst the turmoil around Brexit, it is vital Scottish agriculture benefits from the EU support to which the sector is entitled while it still can.
“It is overwhelmingly in the interests of Scottish farmers to, at the very least, remain in the Customs Union and Single Market. The fact that we are a week from potentially crashing out of the EU with no deal at all, and with no indication of the UK’s plans for agricultural support in the medium to longer term, is causing immense anxiety to farmers.
“Farmers will be expecting more than warm words from Mr Goodwill. He needs to send a clear signal to Scottish farmers that he understands their distinct challenges and is prepared to pay them what is rightfully theirs. In other words, he needs to decide whether he will back Scotland’s farmers, or betray them.”
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