Crucial CAP countdown
- Published on Wednesday, 31 October 2012 12:08
- Posted by Scott Buckler
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead is writing to the UK Government demanding that Scotland's poor budget allocations are made a negotiating priority
As the CAP negotiations reach a crucial stage, Mr Lochhead is concerned that without the UK spending negotiating capital on improving Scotland's budget allocations, we will be left with the lowest levels of payments in the EU under each of the policy's two pillars.
Mr Lochhead has pointed to figures which show that other countries already do far better out of the CAP than Scotland. For instance, Ireland receives more than twice as much in direct payments as Scotland even though it's a similar country. The Czech Republic, which has less farmland than Scotland, also receives far more than Scotland.
The CAP budget is due to be set at the European Council on November 22 and 23. Scotland, like the other devolved administrations, will not be present at the crucial talks with Prime Minister David Cameron instead representing the UK.
Currently, the UK Government is pressing for the overall CAP budget to be substantially reduced while the Scottish Government argues that, in a fair system, Scotland should see an increase in direct payments and rural development funds given the challenges faced by Scottish farmers.
Mr Lochhead said:
"These are crucial times for Europe's farmers with the budget for the future CAP due to be set in a matter of weeks
"I have always said that what I want to see is a fair deal for Scotland's farmers, something that has not been delivered in the past.
"The existing system lacks fairness and has left Scotland shortchanged both in terms of direct payments under Pillar 1 and rural development funding under Pillar 2. Political deals created the current unsatisfactory budget arrangements and political deals can put them right. The question is - are UK Ministers willing to strike deals for Scotland? There is no sign of that, so far.
"The vast majority of farming sectors in every other country have Member State governments fighting their corner in Brussels yet Scotland relies on UK Ministers that have so far refused to pick up the cudgels on behalf of Scots farmers and wider rural Scotland.
"The only way that Scotland can win a fair deal this time around is if UK Ministers make such an outcome a negotiating priority. UK Ministers have so far turned a deaf ear to Scotland's plea for fairness – despite the clarion calls from Scottish sectors. Instead, all we hear about is budget cuts rather than budget fairness.
"Getting the overall budget right is an absolutely key part of reaching a fair settlement. While the talks will continue after the budget is set, we will only be dealing with the detail. If the UK don't deliver a fair EU budget then Scotland will have no choice but to demand a fairer share out of the UK's allocations and this will be a lot more difficult to deliver.
"The importance of other issues such as greening and coupled payments will be overshadowed by failure to secure the right budget settlement.
"We need UK policy to recognise the very different and difficult circumstances faced by Scottish farmers, many of whom rely on support just to keep their heads above water.
"If Scotland's position is not improved, then it's no exaggeration to say that we could be left with the lowest level of funding per hectare in both Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 and our farmers and crofters will pay the price.
"While the Baltic states are working together to maximise their CAP returns, the UK Government are entirely failing to represent the views of Scotland."
Ireland has a population similar to Scotland and its direct payment ceiling is €1.25 billion, compared to Scotland's ceiling of €596 million. The Czech Republic's eligible area is 3.5 million hectares, compared to Scotland's 4.5 million. The Czech Republic's current direct payment is €965 million.
Source: ©Scottish Gov