One of Scotland’s wealthiest landowners is among those raking in millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money through the European Union agricultural subsidy system, it is revealed today.
Details obtained by the i, The Scotsman’s sister title, show that 36 of the UK’s richest people received more than £18 million of direct EU subsidy payments last year.
Among them is the Duke of Buccleuch, who owns 215,000 acres of land across southern Scotland and has an estimated wealth of £213m.
The current duke, Richard Scott, 63, is the owner of an art collection which includes a Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece and has an estimated value of £150m. His estates received £812,393 in subsidies.
Another recipient was Mohsin Al-Tajir, the son of a billionaire former UAE ambassador to the UK, who owns a luxury Wagyu beef farm in the Highlands.
The beef retails at up to £250 per kilo and is used by Michelin chefs such as Edinburgh-based Tom Kitchin.
Together with his wife, Martine Chapman, Mr Tajir received £293,562 in 2016.
Also in receipt of subsidies was the Duke of Westminster, 26, Britain’s youngest billionaire with a fortune worth £9.5 billion, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.
The Queen’s Sandringham Farms estate received £479,739 of direct EU subsidies last year.
The findings have caused anger among politicians and campaigners who argue that in many cases subsidies are being paid by cash-strapped taxpayers to people who do not need the money and are doing little to justify it.
Meanwhile, smaller farmers complain that they see far too little of the subsidy cash.
They say the current subsidy system has a long way from the original aim of ensuring a stable food supply by protecting farmers against risks such as bad weather.
Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas MP said: “The basic payment system should be targeted to both help poorer farmers and incentivise sustainable methods – instead it sees millions of pounds of taxpayers money being spent to line the pockets of the super rich.”
A spokesman for the Duke of Buccleuch’s Buccleuch Estate said: “Buccleuch is an active farming business, with its operations supporting jobs and livelihoods in rural areas.”