SCOTTISH FARMERS can have complete confidence in UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to deliver on his promise of passing on £160million of EU funding to their industry, it was claimed this week.

Scottish Conservative MSP Edward Mountain insisted that the money was finally coming, having been disputed since 2013 when the UK government was allocated an additional £190 million of farm support funding from the EU to 'converge' Scotland’s low payment rate per hectare with the European average – but which it instead retained to spend across the Home Nations, with Scotland receiving just £30m.

In something of a political flip, Mr Mountain this week asked the Scottish Government to confirm that, when it was received, the £160m would be paid directly to farmers and not 'siphoned off into other SNP pet projects'.

The UK Government has also launched an independent review, led by Lord Bew, into the factors that should be considered to make sure that the UK's total farm support funding is fairly allocated in future, with the report from that due to be published soon.

Mr Mountain said: “Last month the Prime Minister pledged to restore the money to Scottish farming and I have every faith that Scottish farmers will receive what they are owed. I believe the money is coming and therefore I am calling on the Scottish Government to make a commitment that the £160m will be paid directly to our farmers and not siphoned off into other SNP pet projects.

"If the Scottish Government’s computer system is running as it should be the convergence payments can be made simply and quickly," he added. "This is a significant amount of funding that can go a long way to supporting our farmers as the industry adjusts to the UK leaving the European Union.”

However, that reference to Brexit might sound an alarm bell for keen watchers of agri-politics – Scotland's historic claim to the £160m convergence cash was based on the EU's attempt to establish a level playing field for farmers across its member states, by closing its per hectare disparity with all its neighbours, including England, Northern Ireland and Wales. As such, the Scottish industry feels strongly the convergence exercise should still be completed – but that cash injection has nothing to do with Brexit, and in fact pales into insignificance next to the estimated losses that farmers will face under a 'no deal' scenario.

The latest impact predictions, prepared by Andersons on behalf of the BBC, suggest that a 'no-deal' exit from Europe will see UK farm incomes drop by 18%, versus the 3% hit estimated for withdrawal under protection of a deal. Applied to current figures, that 18% drop would mean a loss of around £850m.

NFU Scotland director of policy Jonnie Hall said: “Underlining fears previously expressed by NFUS, this report states that, under a ‘no deal’ Brexit, the viability of many farming businesses will be in jeopardy. It adds that, unsurprisingly, grazing livestock farms, particularly sheep, would be the most exposed.

“Taking the UK’s damaging ‘no deal’ tariff schedule into account, the report indicates that output for cereals, milk and beef production would also fall," said Mr Hall. “Given that the Scottish public views a successful agricultural industry as vital to the Scottish economy, a financial hit of that magnitude would seriously erode our ability to produce food and deliver the wider benefits to the rural economy and the environment expected from farmers and crofters.

“This report is a stark reminder that, whilst governments and the food supply chain can put in place measures to mitigate the worst outcomes from a ‘no deal’, the risks to primary producers are very real – avoiding a ‘no deal’ outcome and any short-term economic or even social turmoil must be the political priority.”

For in-depth news and views on Scottish agriculture, see this Friday’s issue of The Scottish Farmer or visit www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk