Fergus Ewing demands action on farm subsidy payments

Announcing the latest update on the progress of the 2015 farm support payments yesterday, Scottish rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing took the opportunity to demand immediate action from the UK government to let farmers know their plans for the future of subsidy payouts.

Fergus Ewing said European funding was vital. Picture: Toby Williams
Fergus Ewing said European funding was vital. Picture: Toby Williams

Speaking during a visit to the Turriff show, Ewing said that European funding was vital for the country’s farmers.

“And that is why we want to protect Scotland’s place in Europe,” said the secretary, “but we also want to know what will happen with subsidy payments in the future and I am calling on the UK government to provide urgent clarity about their plans.”

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He said that the importance of these payments to rural businesses across Scotland was why the Scottish Government’s focus on processing remaining payments remained “unwavering”.

“And I can confirm that now the vast majority of beef and sheep scheme payments have been made we will turn our attention to other schemes.”

Ewing said that a total of £313 million of the 2015 payments had now been paid out – with £10.3m of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funds having been paid out to farmers and crofters during July. He said this figure was made up of £4.3m under the sheep support scheme, which was paid out last week, £3.9m in greening and Young Farmer payments in July and £2.1m from the Rural Priorities Scheme also made in July.

“We will continue to work through the remaining Basic Payment Scheme and greening payments and will now be in a position to prepare for LFASS payments.”

He said that around 11,000 hill farmers and crofters had already received £54m in national LFASS loans and said his department would begin settling outstanding payments from this £65.5m scheme in a few weeks.

Looking to the future, he also stressed that getting the much criticised IT system performing as it should remained also remained a priority.

“I remain determined to put the system on a proper footing for 2016 payments and will update parliament in September,” Ewing promised.

• Meanwhile, Brussels has announced that former French agriculture minister, Michel Barnier, will represent the European Commission in the upcoming Brexit talks.

Scottish MEP Alyn Smith said Barnier was one of the most experienced politicians on Europe and had handled a number of high profiles job for the Commission in the past.

Barnier was in charge of the Commission’s task of regulating financial services after the 2008 crisis.