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Cabinet Secretary Attends Union LFA Meeting

Union committed to restoring LFASS funding levels

NFU Scotland’s LFA Committee welcomed Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing to its committee meeting in Stirling today (18 January) as the Union continues to press for assurances on the future of Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS) funding.

Mr Ewing previously met with the Union’s LFA committee and its Crofting, Highlands and Islands committee in Grantown on Spey at the end of August 2018.

At that time, the lifeline LFASS scheme – of huge importance to the viability of many upland farms and crofts – faced a 20 percent cut from £65 Million to £52 Million in the Scottish Government budget for 2019-20.  That was then scheduled to escalate to an 80 percent cut for the following scheme year.

In parliament last week, Mr Ewing made a commitment that LFA support payments will be at least 80 per cent of 2018 payment levels in 2019/20 and 2020/21 – an announcement welcomed by NFU Scotland.

However, given the huge importance of the scheme to farmers and crofters, NFU Scotland is adamant that any cut to LFASS funding is unacceptable and has pledged to continue to work with the Cabinet Secretary and his officials in a bid to return funding for all future scheme years to the full £65 million. European Regulations limit the amount that can be paid directly through LFASS, but NFU Scotland believes that the £13 million shortfall must be found so that it continues to provide a vital cashflow injection to remote and fragile rural communities.

Hill farmer Robert Macdonald, from Grantown on Spey and chair of the Union’s LFA committee said: “Future LFASS funding is a huge issue for NFUS.  The fact that the Cabinet Secretary was keen to attend our meeting at such short notice is recognition of how seriously Scottish Government are taking the matter.

“The ‘absolute’ commitment made last week by the Cabinet Secretary that LFA support payments will be at least equivalent to 80 per cent of 2018 LFASS payments in 2019 and 2020 was a significant shift and for many of our members, who were staring into the abyss of a huge cut in LFA payments in three years’ time, that has brought some relief.

“However, any short fall in LFA support remains completely unacceptable to NFU Scotland.

“As things stand, funding for the next three years stands at 100 percent, 80 percent and 80 percent of the current £65 million level.  We are committed to working with the Cabinet Secretary and his officials to identify routes to making up any short fall and to fully restore the LFASS budget back to £65million for all future scheme years.  

“We were delighted to welcome the Cabinet Secretary to his second LFA committee meeting in five months.  It allowed him and his officials to again hear directly from farmers and crofters from the length and breadth of Scotland on how important LFA funding is to their businesses and their communities.

“I absolutely believe it is in our shared interests to identify a route to fully restore LFASS budgets and provide a vital financial boost to farmers and crofters who are forging a living out of some of the hardest land in the country while also preserving the beautiful, natural landscapes which they tend to.”  

Notes to Editors

  • Caption – Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing joined NFU Scotland’s LFA committee and other stakeholders when the committee met in Stirling today (18 January) to discuss future funding of the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme.  


Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 04/19


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Angus Macfadyen

879 days ago

Any cut in budget for this support is an affront to hill farmers who are the most vulnerable group in the industry angus
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