As the war of words between Holyrood and Westminster over who controls farm policy hots up ahead of the general election, it has been claimed that the UK government is using Brexit to kick the long-standing convergence uplift issue into the long grass.
Speaking yesterday, Borders MP Calum Kerr said that, despite repeatedly asking Defra when it would carry out its promised review of this funding issue, he now feared that the failure to deliver the estimated £190 million due to Scotland meant farmers north of the Border would be disadvantaged.
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In a letter to UK farm minister, George Eustice, he said: “I urge you to resolve this issue to ensure that any post-Brexit agricultural support framework is not undermined by your government’s failure to deliver a fair settlement for Scottish farmers under the current regime.”
Stating that such negligence was a disgraceful way to treat Scottish farmers, the SNP’s agriculture spokesperson in the House of Commons also questioned Defra’s ability to deliver a coherent farm policy following recent staff cuts and the increased workload of Brexit: “If it isn’t in a fit state to distribute convergence money, how will it respond to the enormous complexity of Brexit?”
Kerr said that there had also been further delays in the publication of Defra’s 25-year food and farming green paper, claiming that Brexit was causing “enormous dysfunction” within the department. “As a result, famers in Scotland are already out of pocket.”
Responding to the convergence claims, a Defra spokesperson said: “We continue to look at this issue closely.”