Failed Brexit promises are costly for Scotland - Fergus Ewing
£170.1 million. Think about that for a minute, it’s a lot of money. This was money that our producers and rural communities would’ve received between 2021 and 2025 if we remained in the European Union but, as it stands, they will lose out on.
How does this chime with the public commitment from the UK Government during the EU referendum campaign that we would not be left in a position where we will have lost out as a result of leaving the EU?
The Scottish Government has been clear and consistent in our position that we expect full replacement of EU funds to ensure no detriment to Scotland’s finances, and we expect the UK Government to fully respect the devolution settlement in any future arrangement. But it doesn’t look like they are going to do this and key concerns also remain over the Internal Market Bill which represents a clear assault on devolved spending powers.
The announcement made by the Chancellor last year provided little clarity on the replacement of EU programmes funding, particularly on structural funds, and it is only a single year guarantee compared to the seven year budget guarantee we had as members of the EU.
The proposed rural funding provides insufficient budget to replace EU funding levels lost to Scotland. This funding is critical in ensuring the ability of producers to remain viable and avoid secondary economic impacts in the most remote and fragile rural communities as they transition to low carbon activity.
These choices made elsewhere have not had our interests at the core. Scotland did not vote to leave the EU and to have these cuts imposed upon our farmers and rural communities. This demonstrates why the Scottish Government must have full control over our future funding arrangements.
It’s important to note that we’re not the only UK nation set to lose out on funding either. Throughout 2020 Scottish Government Ministers and the joint Devolved Administrations have pressed the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and HM Treasury for urgent clarity, written assurance, and engagement on future funding. It’s disappointing that key concerns still remain unanswered.
Following the Bew Review, the UK Government publicly committed to work with the Devolved Administrations, as equals, to agree a fair funding allocation model for agricultural support. No such discussions have taken place and there is no commitment to continue the Bew Review’s £25.7 million annual convergence payment beyond 2022.
The UK Government needs to come to the table and put this right.
This money belongs to rural Scotland, not to Westminster. It would provide financial certainty for farmers and crofters payments, for investing in environmental measures, in innovation and support and advice for this challenging transition period away from CAP.
Farmers deserve to get the financial support they were promised that keeps the heart of rural Scotland pumping strongly. I will certainly continue to fight for them, for all of rural Scotland and see that the £170.1 million is restored.
*Fergus Ewing MSP is cabinet secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism in the Scottish Government.