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Last week Alastair Redman again raised the question of the Scottish government’s handling of EU farm payments and again his letter is more interesting for what it doesn’t say rather than what it does.
He says the Scottish government is in danger of being fined by the EU for failing to make the 2016 subsidy payments.
This is ‘cauld kail’ yet again. The EU has not and is not going to fine the Scottish government because it is well on the way to making all the necessary payments and has put special funds in place to help farmers until this happens.
In England, however, where Mr Redman’s party is responsible for these payments, the government has been fined for its failures in making them.
Mr Redman is right to point to the special needs of Scottish farmers, where 85 per cent of the land is classed as less-favoured and receives additional funding accordingly.
Unfortunately, Mr Redman has failed to tell your readers that EU farming subsidies for Scotland, instead of reverting to the Scottish government on Brexit, as they should under the devolution settlement, are being clawed back to Westminster and will in future be applied on a UK-wide basis.
First secretary of state, Damian Green, a member of Mr Redman’s party, has said this is necessary to prevent different systems operating in different parts of the UK.
The UK government intends to remove the additional funding so vital for the less-favoured areas in which the majority of Scotland’s farmers work and apply it on the basis of a UK average.
If this happens, Scottish farmers will lose around £2 billion of the subsidies they currently receive.
Perhaps this is what the Better Together campaign meant when they said that Scotland benefits from the ‘broad shoulders’ of the Union.
Mr Redman is right to describe it as shocking, but what is most shocking of all is that it’s his party that’s doing it.