Tuesday, 21 November 2017 15:15

IAN BLACKFORD: ‘DISAPPOINTING RESPONSE’ FROM SCOTTISH TORIES ON CONVERGENCE UPLIFT

SCOTTISH FARMERS MUST GET ‘EVERY PENNY THEY ARE RIGHTFULLY DUE’

SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford has written to Tory minister Michael Gove following the response of Scottish Tory MPs on the issue of convergence uplift for Scottish farmers.

The response from the Scottish Conservatives failed to address the missing millions due to Scottish farmers from the pre-2020 convergence monies and did not address Mr Blackford’s offer of a cross-party meeting to work together in the interests of Scottish farming.

The Tories have an opportunity to end the injustice of Scottish in this week’s Budget. The issue of Scottish farmers losing the convergence uplift – the money that the farming sector receives as a result of low payments per hectare – is now of deep concern as it is being withheld from Scotland, even though the only reason the UK qualified for the uplift was because of Scotland's low payments under the current system.

In the letter Ian Blackford has pointed out to Mr Gove the ‘disappointing‘ response from Scottish Tory MPs, writing:

‘’In my previous letter to you, I explained how important it was to continue to have a dialogue with you and your officials on a number of issues in the coming weeks and months – something which we both agreed on in our meeting last month. Unfortunately, it appears that your parliamentary colleagues from Scotland do not share the same approach and have sought only to use this as a means of political point-scoring and dismissed my offer of cross-party collaboration.''

Ian Blackford MP commented:

‘’The response I have received from the Tory contingent at Westminster is deeply disappointing . The current situation is simply untenable – with the UK government depriving Scottish farmers of what they are rightfully due. To leave them with anything less than every penny they are due would be totally unacceptable. Philip Hammond must put this right in his Budget - Scottish farmers must get every penny they are rightfully due.’’

 
Text of the letter can be read here :

Dear Michael,

Following from my letter of 12 October, I am writing to inform you of the disappointing response I received from your parliamentary party colleagues in the Scottish Conservative Party with regards to the ongoing Common Agricultural Payments convergence uplift issue.

In my previous letter to you, I explained how important it was to continue to have a dialogue with you and your officials on a number of issues in the coming weeks and months – something which we both agreed on in our meeting last month. Unfortunately, it appears that your parliamentary colleagues from Scotland do not share the same approach and have sought only to use this as a means of political point-scoring and dismissed my offer of cross-party collaboration.

We all have a shared common interest when it comes to our rural sector. Farming is vital to our economy and we all need to be pulling in the same direction in order to ensure it remains sustainable in the future. We both understand the importance of funding for Scotland’s farming communities; every penny they receive is vital, which is why this situation is bigger than party politics.

Rural Scotland expects its representatives to work together whatever their political allegiance – they want the best deal and myself and the SNP want to ensure they get this.

You will no doubt be aware that the decision not to pass on convergence uplift will mean that Scotland will have one of the lowest average rate per hectares within the EU. Scottish farmers, whether livestock or arable, hill or lowland, will therefore be paid less than their counterparts in other parts of the UK; a fact that is simply wrong and inherently unfair.

I understand that you have sought to review CAP funding after this current period ends in 2020, which is of course welcome, however, there is an urgent need to do more.

If the convergence monies were to be passed on immediately, this uplift would see an additional £160m returned to Scotland instead of the £30 million Scotland receives under the UK Government allocation decision – vital money that equates to almost £14,000 for hill and upland farmers as well as crofters.

With the budget on Wednesday, you have an opportunity to heed the calls made by rural Scotland and our farming communities in particular and urge the Chancellor to provide Scotland’s farmers with the £160m they are due. Doing nothing only heightens fears that Scotland will continue to be short-changed in any future funding settlement.

Delivering the £160m would not only be the right thing to do, but would send a signal to our rural communities in Scotland that their politicians are working together in their interests and not solely for party political reasons.

I would therefore urge you to speak to the Chancellor immediately and would be happy to discuss this matter with you, your Scottish Conservative colleagues and any other Scottish representatives to resolve this injustice on our farmers that has gone on for far too long.
Yours

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