A crucial meeting between NFU Scotland and the Scottish Office took place on Monday (November 11) to discuss the decision last week to keep Scottish farming’s share of the UK CAP budget unchanged.
The meeting between NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller and Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael took place at NFU Scotland’s Ingliston headquarters.
Under new CAP arrangements starting in 2015, Scottish farmers are likely to receive support levels per hectare in 2015 that are well below those in the rest of the UK and much of Europe. However, Europe has mapped out a convergence timetable that asks member states to bring all payments closer to a target of €196 per ha by 2019. In Scotland, that figure is currently closer to €100 per ha.
As part of the new CAP deal, the UK received additional money to deliver convergence. NFU Scotland believed the budget allocation announced last week presented an opportunity to start that process. Instead, the convergence uplift received by the UK was shared between the regions.
The union has a written commitment from Secretary of State Owen Paterson that there will be a review of internal allocation of CAP funds in 2016, to be concluded in 2017. That commitment opens up a new negotiation with Westminster, one that NFUS believes must initiate changes in budget allocation from 2017 onwards.
Mr Miller said: “After the deeply disappointing announcement on Friday, we secured this early meeting to underline the importance of moving the convergence process on. That is a process that must see money flow into Scotland if we are to meet EU objectives on convergence.
“This decision greatly impacts on our members, and we need to fully address the competitive disadvantage that Scottish producers are facing.
“The announcement of the review process means that, for the first time, the issue of convergence is being taken seriously. However, that review process must be robust. It must be made transparent, have an independent review group to determine budget allocations and have a fixed end date for when the transition will be completed.
“We estimate that the initial convergence allocation in 2015 would have been worth €11 million and could rise to €60 million by 2019.
“We have laid down a marker stating that until the review is complete, there should be an advanced budget transfer of €11 million to Scotland to provide a stable platform for our producers. This is the convergence money the UK government will receive in 2015.
“We recognise that the real starting gun for convergence in Scotland will come when we commence our own transition to area payments. We need to ensure we know how the convergence is going to work before the process is started with a deadline in place. Once it has started, a clear commitment to the process must be mapped out by Defra.”