Facing the funding truths
LFASS change is ‘EU requirement’
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick has tempered the furious reaction to the Scottish Government’s decision to reduce funding set aside for farms in less favoured areas.
Conservative politicans have slammed Holyrood for “robbing farmers of vital funding support”, as revised indicative Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) budgets up to 2020 signalled a decrease of £40 million in the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS).
But rural affairs secretary Fergus Ewing said the budgets reflected an expectation Scotland’s overall discretionary budget will be 9.2 per cent lower in real terms in 2019-20 compared to 2010-11 and also hinted at the failure of the UK Government to transfer £160 million of convergence funding to Scottish farmers as reasons behind the drop.
Mr McCornick, who farms near Lochfoot, said: “The £40 million LFASS ‘reduction’ to 2020 is not a new cut but a reflection of the decision taken earlier this year by the Scottish Government to go for the ‘least worst’ option of an LFASS ‘parachute’ payment in 2018 of 80 per cent of payments made under LFASS 2017 rather than the significant upheaval and distribution of funding that would occur if Scotland introduced an Areas of Natural Constraint scheme in 2018.
“While the headlines might read of LFASS funding being cut, the reality is that LFASS was being forced into change by EU requirements that have resulted in the LFASS budget being re-aligned.
“And LFASS and the rest of the SRDP is a dynamic programme whereby funding does shift laterally to reflect demand and priorities, but it is also constantly under pressure to help out with the Scottish Government’s overall spending plans.”
Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell believes the cuts are further evidence of the Scottish Government failing to support the country’s rural farming community.
He said: “The SNP have continually let down farmers across Dumfriesshire and this is robbing them of yet more vital funding support.
“The rural affairs secretary Fergus Ewing has serious questions to answer over why this vital support is being cut to the tune of tens of millions of pounds.”
Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson added: “Money for farms in less favourable areas is absolutely vital.
“These are the businesses who need the investment most, and now it’s being reduced significantly by an SNP government which has turned its back on rural Scotland.”
Andrew McCornick Tempered the debate of LFASS change