MSP urges UK government to give assurances on CAP payments

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Angus North and Mearns MSP Mairi Evans has called on the UK Government for clarity over the future payment of farm subsidies, following the Brexit vote.

Her call comes after latest figures showed a further £10.3 million in Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding was paid out in Scotland in July.

The latest figures from the Scottish Government revealed that a total of £313 million has now been paid out in Scotland.

The CAP payments make up a major part of farmer’s incomes – with this fact demonstrating how important it is for the UK Government to provide clarity to farmers across Angus North and Mearns on the future of these subsidies. The latest figures showed funding paid out in July, which included £4.3 million under the sheep support scheme; £3.9 million BPS Greening and Young Farmer payments; and £2.1 million from the Rural Priorities Scheme.

Commenting on the figures, Mairi Evans, said: “This European funding is absolutely vital to farmers across Angus North and Mearns and throughout Scotland – and the UK Government must provide our farmers with clarity over the future of these subsidies which are important to our rural economy.

“These subsidies provide a vital element of our farmer’s incomes, and it is absolutely vital that the UK Government makes its intentions clear, and commits to continuing to fund these subsidies. Given that CAP falls under the remit of one of the key players of the Leave campaign, Andrea Leadsom, in her new role as Rural Affairs Secretary, there is no excuse for clarity not to be given so that farmers in Angus North and Mearns can plan for the future.

“CAP payments are one of the multitude of reasons why protecting our place in the EU is integral to Scotland’s interests, and I’m delighted that the Scottish Government is taking all necessary steps to protect Scotland’s place in Europe – action that farmers across Angus North and Mearns will benefit from.”

Her call follows on from an evidence session on July 28 at the Scottish parliament, where NFU Scotland’s Parliamentary Officer Clare Slipper said a commitment to maintain CAP support levels in the run up to Brexit, and in the years post-Brexit were vital for stability and confidence.

Speaking after the session, Clare Slipper said: “A point made loud and clear to committee members was that agricultural production is the bedrock of Scotland’s successful food and drinks industry and, as the central plank of our biggest manufacturing sector, farming must not be used as a bargaining chip as we negotiate Brexit and the establishment of new trade agreements.

“To secure the levels of food being produced from our farms and crofts in the future, ongoing support remains vitally important. The current CAP package, due to run until 2020, is likely to span the UK’s expected exit from the European Union. We want Government to send out a clear message on its commitment to support levels in the future and we believe the next four rounds of payments, from now until 2020, should be delivered as promised and as budgeted for. That would provide a confident platform going forwards.

“In the longer term, the real prize will be creating a new system of support in Scotland that fits with our farming and crofting systems. Our initial thoughts are that we would want that to genuinely reward activity as well as considering other elements such as research, innovation, knowledge transfer and advisory services. It is important the views of our members drive our vision for future support arrangements. This autumn will see us embarking on a consultation process that will put members at the forefront of setting our new policy priorities for the future.

“Much as financial support is really important to farmers and crofters, and delivers excellent value to the consumer, in the future we should take the opportunity to create a Scottish support system which allows farmers to take more back from the market as well as having financial tools available to manage volatility in prices.

“These, and other models, will form the basis of consultation we’ll be running with members in the latter part of the year.”