THE forthcoming reform of the European Union’s common agricultural policy should be used to correct present imbalances in support received by Scottish farmers compared with their English, Welsh and Irish counterparts.
That was the claim made yesterday by one of Scotland’s MEPs, George Lyon, who called on the UK government to give an assurance that they were open to discussions on a new basis for distributing CAP cash across the UK.
Currently, the share-out of CAP cash is based on farm production back in 1999-2001. On a per hectare basis, that share out is: €130 (£106) per hectare for Scotland; €339 per hectare for Northern Ireland; €245 per hectare for Wales and €265 per hectare for England.
If the cash was distributed evenly across the whole of the UK, Lyon said the average payment would be €229 per hectare.
“The reason that Scotland still has such a poor share of the UK CAP cash on a per hectare basis is because the Scottish Government has chosen to hang on to the historic payments model for calculating the single farm payments (SFP) to Scottish farmers, while England moved to a flat rate payment system in 2005.
“I believe that Scotland, with 85 per cent of its land designated as less favoured areas, would be entitled to a fairer share of the UK CAP cash, one that gave us an SFP pot that is at least the UK average of €229 per hectare.
“That would nearly double the current amount of money in Scotland, which last year was worth €550 million to Scottish farmers.”
Lyon called for assurances from the UK government that it would be willing to engage with all the devolved governments on how to calculate a fairer distribution of UK CAP cash once every country within the United Kingdom moved to the same area-based payments system.
He believed that Scottish farmers needed to know that they did not need to separate from the UK to get a fair share of future CAP support.
“By working constructively together within the UK, there is a much larger prize to play for which will bring real benefits to Scottish farming.”