Farm minister hopes convergence review is agreed this year

George Eustice hopes an agreement can be reached by the end of this year. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

George Eustice hopes an agreement can be reached by the end of this year. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

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A promise to push ahead with a review of the controversial “convergence uplift” settlement was given by UK farm minister George Eustice yesterday, who said he hoped that agreement on the issue would be finalised by the end of the year.

Speaking at NFU Scotland’s annual meeting in St Andrews, the minister said that while formal talks with the Scottish Government were unlikely to take place until after the Scottish elections in May, his department was poised to begin preliminary discussions on options with the union’s policy staff.

He said: “I am aware that the convergence issue has been a sore point with Scottish farmers but I always said that the situation would be reviewed in 2016 and we will begin looking at avenues for reaching a settlement such as land classifications this year.”

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However, Eustice indicated that, with spending programmes already set, it could be closer to 2019 before any redistribution of the EU convergence monies – which were awarded to the UK due to Scotland’s low area payments – was actually made.

On the other cross-border wrangle – the repatriation of red meat levies – he said the agreement between the three collection bodies involved had made considerable progress but the process would need to be the subject of a political consultation in all three countries.

He said the timing of a new system would depend on whether the proposals required changes to primary or secondary legislation or a simple agreement between the bodies.

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