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The future for LFASS – Committee Chair Blog – 28 August 2020

It is a huge concern that, as LFA farmers and crofters, we currently don’t have clarity on what the Scottish Government’s intentions are for paying LFASS (Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme) 2020 claims, due to be paid next year writes LFA Committee Chairman Robert Macdonald.

The Union’s LFA committee is clear that the most immediate priority for LFA businesses is the full reinstatement of LFASS payments to 2018 levels.


In the near term, we need to see the retention of LFASS in its current form until 2024, and with the scheme re-based on livestock under the economic control of applicants in 2019.  

This requires political commitment to protect the £65 million budget of LFASS from 2021.

The LFA Committee is currently producing a document to outline the clear and unequivocal need for support to the less favoured areas.  The argument is self-evident to thousands of farmers and crofters, and to those in our wider communities, but I believe we must continue to shout about all the positives that LFA farming and crofting delivers for Scotland.

This year we received payments for our 2019 claims that amounted to 80 per cent of our 2018 payments, due to the requirement in European regulations for member states to reduce their LFA support and replace it with ANC (areas of natural constraint) support.  Both NFU Scotland and the Scottish Government believed that moving to ANC would lead to less targeting of support, therefore diluting this vital aspect of support.

The Scottish Government decided to provide aid via the upland area support that came with the convergence uplift.  It should be noted though that this support did not take into account the fragility markers or cattle multipliers that are present in LFASS.

This same European regulation which meant LFASS 2019 payments were reduced to 80 per cent of their 2018 rates also requires LFASS 2020 to be paid at 40 per cent of 2018 rates.  This reduction in support to LFA farms and crofts would be a massive hit to our rural communities.

Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing has made positive statements about his intention to deliver the same level of support to the LFA in 2020 and this is good to hear.  We now need the detail on how this will be delivered to enable farmers and crofters to budget and plan for the coming year.

While welcoming the intention to maintain the level of support, the LFA Committee is quite clear that a reduction of LFASS to 40 per cent, and a three-fold increase in the upland area portion of the convergence uplift would see an unacceptable redistribution of support to LFA businesses should Scottish Government employ the same mechanism to top up the 2020 payment.

I believe the best way to ensure income stability in the short term would be for the Scottish Government to use the powers available in the Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) (Scotland) Bill to unpick the parachute requirements of the European regulation and to reinstate LFASS payments to 100 per cent of the 2018 rate for the 2020 scheme year.

Whatever the outcome for LFASS 2020, we must see appropriate funding to our LFA businesses until the establishment of the new agricultural policy in 2024.

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