Local MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed a number of announcements on the Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which were made in Holyrood today by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead.
These include a confirmation that the Scottish Government will not wrap up capital grants for crofters within a scheme more widely available to small farmers. The SNP MSP had some time ago made a request that these grants remain exclusively available to crofters, and the Scottish Government has now taken this decision.
Dr Allan commented: “There was a great deal in today’s announcement to Parliament by Richard Lochhead on CAP reform. One of the most immediately welcome announcements was that he has listened to the voices of the crofting community by confirming that capital grants for crofters will remain available only to crofters. The funds will not be available more widely to small farmers outside the crofting counties, as had been speculated. This is an issue I had written to Mr Lochhead about in the past and am glad to see the right decision has been made on this.
“While island crofters will want to study the detail of these proposals fully, there are a number of other measures of particular interest, such as a grant of 65 Euros per calf, available only in the islands. There are new definitions of rough grazing, which will now be split between two further payment regions. The poorest rough grazing, in LFASS category A will be a separate region at around 10 Euros per hectare, but this will be coupled to sheep payments of around 25 Euros per ewe, subject to UK agreement to elements of these proposals.
“Overall, the Scottish Government has taken important decisions which redress some of the imbalances in the way support has been distributed in the past, with absolute limits to the amount which larger farmers can claim in direct farm payments. A limit is clearly justified as, at present, 5 farmers in Scotland between them claim £7.5 million. Also, sporting estates will now no longer be eligible for direct farm payments in certain circumstances.
“Richard Lochhead has had to balance competing considerations from Europe, the UK, and most importantly from Scotland’s crofting and farming interests in reaching these proposals. This will all continue to be discussed within the crofting community, but I believe there is much in today’s announcement that helps island crofters.”