MP seeks action on payments

Calum Kerr (centre) during a farm visit to McGregor Farms, Coldstream with Colin McGregor (left) and NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie (right).

Calum Kerr (centre) during a farm visit to McGregor Farms, Coldstream with Colin McGregor (left) and NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie (right).

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Speaking in the House of Commons last week, Borders MP Calum Kerr called on the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Andrea Leadsom, to honour the government’s commitment to deliver a better deal for Scottish farmers by the end of the year.

Mr Kerr used the first DEFRA question time conducted by the new Secretary of State – whose remarks on hill farming and fruit picking jobs have provoked controversy – to highlight the issue of European Union convergence funding owed to Scotland.

While the UK has benefited from the EU wide convergence scheme, which is designed to equalise farm payments across Europe, the UK government has not adjusted the amount of money that gets passed on to Scotland accordingly.

Yet the UK only qualified for the scheme because of Scotland’s historically low per hectare rates under Pillar 1 CAP funding. As a result it is estimated that around 230 million Euros is owed to Scottish farmers.

Commenting on the ongoing lack of dialogue from the UK government, Mr Kerr said: “It’s clear that this government often lacks resolve when it comes to living up to its rhetoric – but on this issue I hope that MPs and MSPs of all parties can come together on behalf of Scottish farmers and our rural economy.

“For the UK government to renege on this commitment would be an outrageous breach of trust. It must not use the difficulties of Brexit to delay this any further.”

Mr Kerr has also written to Farming Minister George Eustice calling for immediate action to remedy this “unjust” situation.

Under the current regime Scottish farmers, including many hill farmers in the Borders, are set to have the lowest per hectare rate in Europe by 2019.

The MP’s call comes after talks on revising the current distribution of convergence funding have not moved forward, despite previous statements from the government claiming that they would commence in the autumn.