Highlands & Islands farmers and crofters will benefit from the first instalment of convergence funding – addressing an “historic injustice” which the Scottish Government has long campaigned for.
Local MSP Maree Todd, SNP said:
“This is money that was hard fought for over many years, and I am delighted for farmers in the Highlands & Islands that the £160 million of convergence money that the UK government tried to appropriate from Scotland has been returned.
“Scottish farmers have been short-changed by the UK government for years, and the SNP has argued long and hard for that injustice to be addressed.
“This funding will play a vital role in helping us meet our agricultural commitments and will make a crucial difference to the future viability of Scotland’s farming industry.
“However, Brexit is by far the biggest threat to Scotland’s farming and crofting communities, but this funding will help to provide some security to Highlands & Islands farmers during these uncertain times.
“With future arrangements for agriculture still unclear amidst the turmoil around Brexit, it is absolutely vital that Highlands & Islands agriculture benefits from the EU support to which the sector is entitled, while it still can.
“We now need real commitments over future funding, and an end to the attempted power grab over farming powers that should rightfully be at the Scottish Parliament.”
The initial £80 million will be distributed to support active farming, with a focus on those who farm in marginal uplands, hill farms and island areas.
£190 million of convergence money was due to come to the UK from the EU. This was mainly to come to Scotland in recognition of the difficult conditions faced by farmers. Instead, the UK Government of the time decided to distribute the funding across the UK, with Scotland receiving £30 million, which was £160 million below what was due. This meant the money went to areas of the UK where it was not intended. On 4th of September 2019, the Chancellor confirmed that the UK Government would return the £160 million of funding to Scotland.
Fergus Ewing, Rural Economy Secretary in the Scottish Government said:
“In allocating this funding, I am conscious of the need to adhere to the spirit and original premise of convergence. This approach ensures that the money goes to where it was originally intended – with a significant proportion going to those farming in our marginal and remote areas. This funding will also meet my commitment to maintain support for farmers and crofters in the Less Favoured Area.
“I believe this approach gets the money to where it needs to be and will result in all eligible farmers and crofters either increasing or significantly increasing the money in their bank accounts. Brexit is by far the biggest threat to farming and this funding will help provide some security during these uncertain times. This will then enable them to invest in their businesses, pay down debt and ultimately drive the rural economy forward.
“I have given careful consideration in deciding this approach and would like to thank everyone for their support and suggestions on how best to fairly allocate this money over the last couple of weeks.
“This approach respects the spirit in which this money was intended, and will, as far as we can achieve, close the gap in support between Scottish farmers and crofters and the EU average.”