THE UK Government’s decision to split extra European cash for farmers is “a slap in the face for Scottish agriculture”, according to the Rural Affairs Secretary.
Richard Lochhead hit out at the decision to divide funding of around £190 million between the four nations of the UK, instead of giving it all to Scotland.
There is cross-party support at Holyrood for all of the cash, part of the common agricultural policy (CAP) known as the “convergence uplift”, to go to Scotland.
Labour, Tories and the Liberal Democrats joined Mr Lochhead in urging UK Rural Affairs Secretary Owen Paterson to give all the additional money to Scotland, arguing that the UK only received the money because of the low levels of payment Scotland receives through another part of CAP.
Last week the UK Government announced the funding will be split between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Mr Lochhead said this means Scotland receives 16% of the convergence funds, rather than 100%.
“Mr Paterson delivered a slap in the face for Scottish agriculture by deciding the uplift will not be allocated to Scotland after all. Instead he divided it amongst all parts of the UK, even though England, Wales and Northern Ireland are already above EU thresholds,” he said.
It is “clear that the UK’s uplift is as a direct result of the low payments here in Scotland”, he said.
“In other words, if it were not for Scotland, there would be no uplift for the UK. So in the interests of justice, 100% of the UK’s convergence uplift should therefore come to Scotland.”
The decision not to allocate all the funds to Scotland “goes against the intentions of the EU, against the wishes of this Parliament and it takes away from Scottish farmers’ and crofters’ resources which should be theirs and on which their livelihoods depend”.
The Scottish Government will continue to work with farmers to “make the case for justice and fairness”, he said.
The three main Holyrood opposition parties, including the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats which are in government at Westminster, said they are disappointed that the cash was not given to Scotland in its entirety.
Labour’s Claire Baker said she shares Mr Lochhead’s “frustration and disappointment” at the funding deal.
“Across political parties we agreed there was a valid argument for Scotland to receive that money because of our current low per hectare share, and I believe the UK Government have made the wrong decision on allocation,” she said.
Tory Alex Fergusson said: “I very much share the disappointment of everyone in this chamber that the UK Government was unable to deliver the convergence uplift to Scotland.”
Liberal Democrat Liam McArthur said: “I certainly recognise the disappointment on the issue of convergence and the need for a change in the funding model.”
Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Farming has a huge impact on our environment, especially on climate change emissions.
“This money could have helped farmers manage manures and slurries better, to reduce climate emissions, helped the transition to climate-friendly feed for livestock and ensured more farmers planted trees on their land.
“The missing millions will inevitably mean missed opportunities to do good for the environment with CAP funds.”