Tories Lose £160 Million of Scottish Farmers Money
Scottish Farmers have been cheated out of £160 Million Pounds in what has become known as the
“Great Tory Rip Off”
This all dates back to 2013, when the EU made its decision to redistribute Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments more fairly by basing them on the average Euros per hectare. The EU paid the uplift money (£190 million) to bring Scottish hill farmers up to the average per-hectare payments of all the other EU countries. However, a decision was made by the UK government to spread the payments across the whole farming sector, based on historical distributions, this meant that Scottish farmers only received £30 million pounds instead of the £190 million that they were entitled to.
Scottish Farmers have hit brick wall after brick wall trying to get the remaining £160 million of CAP convergence funding allocated to them by the EU. Their frustration is made worse by the fact that the UK Government can give no coherent reason as to why the Scottish Farmers have not yet been paid.
The UK Government is refusing point blank to discuss the matter.
In May 2017, Farming Minister George Eustice stated in the House of Commons that “discussions on the money had been thrown off course by Brexit”.
In September 2017 when he appeared before the new Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, DEFRA Secretary Michael Gove refused outright to hand over any convergence cash to Scotland, claiming that the decision by the previous conservative administration to spread the money across the UK would be ‘difficult to unpick’.
Fergus Ewing the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy said “Without progress on this issue, how can we trust that Scotland will be fairly treated in future funding discussions when there is this long-standing unresolved issue”. In a letter to Mr Ewing, Mr Gove said that he wanted swift progress on establishing the agreed review but that the Treasury was ultimately responsible for financing. Read more here (opens in a new tab)
In May 2018 it was revealed that a review into the disputed £160 million of CAP convergence funding allocated to Scottish hill farmers was to be delayed, the UK Government wrote to Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing informing him that there would be an open ended delay to the process.
Mr Ewing said: “This delay is completely unacceptable. Scottish hill farmers are owed £160 million, which the UK Government has repeatedly ignored. I have been clear throughout that the money was earned in Scotland, and quite frankly should be returned to Scotland” he went on to say “that having already secured the review and agreed its independent chair, it is disappointing to learn that the review is being kicked into the long grass.”Convergence cash review delayed
In June 2018 Defra secretary, Michael Gove stated that the Scottish farmers would not be receiving any of £160 million convergence funding as this had been allocated elsewhere by the previous conservative government.
During an evidence session where Mr Gove was questioned by the Scottish Parliament’s rural economy and connectivity committee, he admitted that mistakes had been made. He went on to say “I cannot call back money which has been spent or has been in budgets that have already been allocated. What we are not doing is clawing money back but what we are doing is being aware that good arguments were made at the time and we will, in good faith, honour the integrity of the individuals who made those decisions at the time and we must respect the decisions of the government.”Gove admits farm cash is gone
In a response to Mr Gove’s admission, a spokesperson from the Scottish Government said “The failure of the UK Government to transfer £160 million of CAP convergence funding – which was made available to the UK principally because of issues in Scotland – is a serious issue for Scottish farmers. The Secretary of State for Rural Affairs should also keep his promise to proceed with the convergence review”
In October 2018 Westminster issued the “terms of reference” for the review, but, rather than trying to resolve the issue of how the £190 million was originally allocated, it seems the review will only consider future allocations, and only then up to 2022.
In a letter to Mr Gove, Fergus Ewing the Scottish rural economy secretary said that “this renders the whole exercise ‘almost worthless’. It is disappointing, to say the least, that nearly a year on, not only has the review still not begun, but the UK government now proposes a significantly watered down remit”.
Mr Ewing expressed concern saying that “because post-Brexit funding for agriculture is likely to be based on current allocations, failure to include the missing £160 million will permanently disadvantage Scottish farmers”. he went on to say “I feel very strongly that the review must revisit the arguments around the current CAP funding allocations in order to identify how unfairly Scottish farmers have been treated, It should also provide an opinion about our claim that the Treasury should reimburse Scottish farmers with the £160 million convergence money that was wrongly allocated”.Scots angered by ‘watered down’ review of CAP money allocation
Under the CAP reform, the EU set out to redistribute direct payments more equally based on average euros per hectare. Scotland’s historically low payment rate qualified it for a £190 million uplift, the UK Government was paid the money, but so far has only passed £30 million of it onto the Scottish farmers.
It matters not where the UK government claims that the rest of the money went, the money was allocated by the EU for a specific purpose and the UK governments refusal to hand over the remaining funds is tantamount to theft.
In my opinion the UK Government should immediately and without further delay hand over the remaining £160 million pounds plus interest so it can be distributed to its rightful owners.
I also believe, that it is only right and proper that those Scottish farmers who have lost out and had to sell land to survive, and in some cases have gone out of business altogether through the misappropriation of this money, should be compensated by the UK government in full for their losses.
If you want to know more about this issue then you can read the full parliamentary debate that took place in the Scottish Parliament on the 25th of October 2017.Common Agricultural Policy Convergence Moneys