Scottish commitment sought

NFU Scotland has responded quickly to a UK Government statement guaranteeing support levels for structural and investment fund projects after Brexit.

The commitment, made by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, covered those measures and schemes in Scotland that are partly funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (CAP Pillar 2). The Union has sought further details from UK Government regarding the announcement.

NFUS has also subsequently written to Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Constitution Derek Mackay seeking assurances that the Scottish Government will follow suit and provide the same commitment to maintaining funding for Scotland’s key Pillar 2 schemes.

These include the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme and the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme which sit within Scotland’s Rural Development Programme (SRDP) and are currently worth around £95 million per annum, with 70 percent of funding coming from Scottish Government.

The Union believes that a clear and unambiguous statement from the Scottish Government on the future of its funding commitment to spending under the SRDP would be of real value in helping to build confidence following the Brexit vote.

In writing to Mr Mackay, NFUS president Allan Bowie said: “The UK Government’s announcement has now made it clear that, for as long as the UK remains a member of the EU, farmers and crofters must be entitled to apply for EU funds. In order to boost the confidence of farmers and crofters, and the wider rural economies that they underpin, it is vital that the Scottish Government makes an unequivocal statement setting out its commitment to maintain Pillar 2 spending on all the schemes within the SRDP at current levels through to 2020.

“Direct support payments from Pillar 1 of the CAP in Scotland play a vital role, but the importance of key SRDP schemes cannot be overstated.”