Scottish farming is facing a difficult future if the views of the UK Secretary of State Owen Paterson on the current CAP package prevail, according to John Cameron, the Scottish president of the National Sheep Association (NSA).
Cameron said he found it absolutely unbelievable that Paterson had committed himself so strongly against a re-coupling of farm subsidies.
“It is only two weeks since UK farm minister David Heath indicated to Scottish Farmers at the NFUS annual meeting that Defra could be prepared to allow Scotland to use any part of the UK’s 15 per cent of CAP payments not being used for recoupling in England,” he said.
“The 15 per cent allowance is part of the current reform package and is wholly legitimate but it requires the authorisation of the UK government.”
As a past president of the Scottish Beef Cattle Association and with his current position in the NSA, Cameron said that, with falling populations in both the beef and sheep sectors, there was an urgent need for the use of a direct linkage between subsidies and numbers of livestock.
He called on all the farm organisations in Scotland to strongly support Scottish Government Cabinet secretary Richard Lochhead who will have to negotiate on Scotland’s behalf not only in Brussels but also in Westminster.
“I believe he has the support of the two other ministers from Wales and Northern Ireland but in view of the categorical statement just made by the Defra minister on recoupling, it is clear that our Cabinet secretary will have a tough time in achieving the regional flexibility urgently needed for Scottish farmers.”
Cameron also predicted that Paterson’s support for removing direct support payments would lose a lot of rural support. for his party
Cameron said Owen’s predecessor Caroline Spelman had accepted that changes would have to be phased.