Fac­ing the fund­ing truths

LFASS change is ‘EU re­quire­ment’

The Galloway News - - FARMING REVIEW - Ben Ramage

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

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