FARMING industry leaders have published a policy position on how they think the UK Government’s promised agri-support uplift of £160 million for Scotland should be spent.

Early in September, Chancellor Sajid Javid confirmed that his spring spending plans would honour Prime Minister Boris Johnson's commitment to give Scottish agriculture £160m in lieu of the Common Agricultural Policy convergence funding that was controversially diverted into the overall UK farm budget by Westminster back in 2013.

In light of the difficult market conditions being experienced across all agricultural sectors – and the 'unprecedented uncertainty' fostered by Brexit – the National Farmers Union Scotland has now asked the UK Government for this money to be delivered to the Scottish Government as soon as possible, and issued a position paper setting out how it should be used to 'make good' the dent in farm finances created by that earlier diversion.

"This injection of funding is significant, and the union believes it must be used in the most balanced and deliverable manner to be most effective at this time," said the NFUS – and that meant targeting the cash solely at currently active farmers and crofters, rather than attempting any retrospective distribution which could benefit people who have left the industry.

Stressing that this position was unanimously agreed by its Board of Directors, representing all sectors of Scottish agriculture, the union recommended that the additional funding be exclusively retained as direct support to reflect its origins in the EU's 'Pillar 1' budget – and not be used to fund Pillar 2 schemes such as Less Favoured Areas support.

The union also noted that the £160 million was a one-off uplift being made to correct a past decision, and was entirely separate to the outcome of the Bew Review into the future intra-UK allocation of agricultural funding, which recommended that an additional £51.4m come to Scotland, split between 2021 and 2022.

Union president Andrew McCornick said: “This is £160 million that was hard fought for over many years and is a real positive at a time of unprecedented uncertainty and a difficult market situation across all sectors.

“It will provide Scottish Agriculture PLC with a significant injection of funding and must be used in the most balanced and deliverable manner to be most effective at this time.

“We believe that any new Pillar 1 funding must mean Pillar 1 delivery," said Mr McCornick. "Given the very real challenges facing the viability of farms and crofts across Scotland, the additional funding must be exclusively retained as direct support and delivered on a sector-neutral basis through existing Scottish schemes to have effective and desired impact.

“The additional £160 million funding should essentially be treated as if it had been received as Pillar 1 funding from 2015 and distributed within Pillar 1 to fulfil existing policy decisions through Scotland’s existing direct support schemes.

“None of the £160 million additional Pillar 1 support should be used to address the shortfall in Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme – LFASS – funding in 2019 (or 2020). LFASS is a Pillar 2 scheme and resolving the LFASS issue should not be reliant on the additional Pillar 1 funding coming to Scotland.”

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