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DEFRA Asked to Explain Convergence Decision Under FOI Request

NFU Scotland is maintaining the pressure on Westminster following its failure to address European requirements on convergence and, instead, deliver Scottish farmers a poor budget deal.

The CAP budget allocation announcement by Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson in November was deeply disappointing.  Additional money supplied to the UK government to deliver Europe’s vision for convergence of farm support payments should have been used to address the fact that Scotland is the only region in the UK receiving a payment rate per hectare that is below the EU average of €196 per hectare.

Following legal advice, NFUS has made a request, under Freedom of Information, asking Defra to provide details on how it had arrived at its recent budgetary decision.  In addition, NFU Scotland’s Chief Executive Scott Walker will meet with Commission officials in Brussels tomorrow (Tuesday, 17 December), to discuss Europe’s view of Defra’s decision.

NFUS members across Scotland were justifiably appalled when Owen Paterson chose not to use new European money to lift Scotland’s poor support levels, and many have taken the time to contact their local MP on the issue.

NFU Scotland President, Nigel Miller said:

“It remains our firm belief that Defra’s decision not to use additional EU funds to address Europe’s wishes on convergence and start to lift Scotland’s average support payment of €130 per hectare closer to the European average amounts to a misuse of convergence funding.   

“The Secretary of State Owen Paterson has opened the door to an increase in the Scottish coupled envelope through the use of the UK budget.  And by introducing a convergence review in 2016, he has recognised the pressures we face in moving to area payments. It is therefore hard to understand why the new convergence funding wasn’t used to plug the budget gap north of the Border.  

“Europe’s vision for convergence, and the basis for the UK receiving additional money, is that support rates per hectare should start to converge towards the EU target of €196 per hectare by 2020 – that is a wish the UK government chooses to ignore.

“Following Owen Paterson’s announcement, we asked our legal representatives to examine whether the UK government erred, procedurally or substantively, in the distribution of its national allocation of European CAP subsidy amongst Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“They informed us that the UK government may distribute the UK’s allocation of European Pillar 1 CAP funding to the devolved administrations but if that “regional” approach is adopted, the distribution must be carried out with reference to “objective and non-discriminatory criteria”.  

“Our lawyers believe that provides us with a basis for questioning.  Under Freedom of Information (FOI), our lawyers have asked the UK government to explain what objective and non-discriminatory criteria were used in reaching its decision to allocate funding to England, Wales and Northern Ireland which was derived solely because of historic under-support for Scotland.

“Under FOI, we have also asked Defra to reveal how robustly it argued for additional rural development funds for Scotland. In respect of Pillar 2 funding, a limited number of Member States received more support than they would have done, having put a special case for additional uplift to the European Commission.

“In light of Scotland receiving the lowest levels of rural development support in the whole of the European Union, we want to know if Westminster put such a case during CAP negotiations to bring additional funds to Scotland.  If not, the Scottish farmers will justifiably demand to know why.”

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006 or Ruth McClean on 0131 472 4108

Date Published:

News Article No.: 161/13


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