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Scottish farmers ‘owed’ £160 million from UK Government, SNP claims

The party is demanding answers from UK Agriculture Minister Robert Goodwill.

The SNP believes the cash should be handed over to Scottish farmers (Andrew Milligan/PA)
The SNP believes the cash should be handed over to Scottish farmers (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The SNP has demanded answers from the UK Agriculture Minister, claiming the UK Government has £160 million of EU payments “owed” to Scottish farmers.

Robert Goodwill has been pressed for an explanation ahead of his visit to a farm in Aberdeenshire on Friday.

The SNP and Scottish farming organisations argue Scotland is owed the £190 million of EU convergence uplift payments to the UK for the period 2014 to 2020.

Scottish farmers have been owed this money since 2013, however, the Tories continue to withhold the cash that is rightfully theirs Stewart Stevenson MSP

The convergence cash was triggered due to the low rate of Common Agricultural Policy payments given to Scottish hill farmers.

Aimed at distributing the subsidies more fairly based on average euros per hectare, the UK only qualified for the payments through Scotland, as England, Wales and Northern Ireland were all above the threshold.

By May 2018, the UK Government had allocated around £30 million of the uplift payments to Scotland, with the rest being distributed around the UK, leading to allegations the money has been “stolen” from Scotland’s farmers, which the UK Government denies.

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Stewart Stevenson wants Scottish farmers to be paid £160 million from the UK Government (David Cheskin/PA)

Stewart Stevenson MSP, who sits on Holyrood’s Rural Environment and Connectivity Committee, said: “The only reason the UK qualified for this funding is because of Scotland – therefore, the only fair solution is that Scottish farmers and crofters receive the £160m in convergence funding due to them in full.

“Anything less is completely unacceptable. Scottish farmers have been owed this money since 2013, however, the Tories continue to withhold the cash that is rightfully theirs.

“Successive Tory government ministers have let Scottish farmers down on this issue – promising review after review, but never getting round to it. They need to get serious about the missing millions.

“That money was earned in Scotland and should be returned to Scotland.”

Last year, the UK Government announced an independent review of how EU farm subsides are distributed across the UK from Brexit until 2022 but it is not looking into the disputed cash.

Terms of reference for the review, which aims to ensure the subsidies are “fairly split”, were set in December and it is expected to take six months.

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokeswoman said: “We want to provide stability for all UK farmers and have already guaranteed that the amount we allocate to farm support will be protected in cash terms until the end of this Parliament.

“We are also committed to fair funding for agriculture across the UK.”

PA

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