NFU writes to Cabinet Secretary on direct support and rural development plans

editorial image

NFU Scotland has written to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance Derek Mackay MSP asking for clarity around the short term support arrangements for Scottish farmers and crofters.

This follows the recent statement from the UK Chancellor, Philip Hammond MP, on the commitment to Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Pillar 1 spending (direct support) for agriculture until the end of the Multiannual Financial Framework in 2020.

In the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, the Scottish Government indicated it would be open to the idea of protecting spending on Scottish CAP support so long as the funds were committed by Treasury.

With this intention now being signalled by the Chancellor, NFU Scotland is looking to the Scottish Government to follow suit in order to provide a confident platform for Scottish farmers and crofters that is in line with their counterparts elsewhere in the UK.

The union is seeking reassurances over future Scottish arrangements for direct support (Pillar 1) – Basic Payment Scheme, Greening, and headage schemes for beef calves and hill sheep - and through the Scotland Rural Development Programme (Pillar 2) which delivers Less Favoured Areas Support and agri-environment measures.

The Union sought similar reassurances when it met with Scottish Secretary of State David Mundell on farm in East Lothian yesterday (Wednesday).

Writing to Mr MacKay, NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie said: “Last weekend’s Treasury statement has gone some way in providing assurances to farmers and crofters in Scotland that they will be financially supported throughout the period of negotiation as the UK exits the EU.

“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.

“The welcome reassurance from Treasury that essential direct support will remain to 2020 will allow our members to continue to produce and invest in their businesses – at least in the short to medium term.

“Clearly questions remain on how this money will come to Scotland – whether via the Barnett Formula or other means; as well as the commitment of some structural funds and elements of Pillar 2.

“Mr MacKay has already written to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury in this regard and NFU Scotland will support him seeking certainty on this.

“However, 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. And 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 are hugely important because of the economic, environmental and social goods they deliver, particularly to some of our more remote and vulnerable regions. That merits 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.”