There's been a rapid reappraisal of Scottish Government policy on croft payments.
This came after predictions that the Scottish Government’s cabinet secretary for the rural economy could find himself on the receiving end of lively questioning when he visits Lewis tomorrow (Thursday November 7th).
Fergus Ewing MSP will be at Barvas and Brue community centre between 3.45 and 5.15pm tomorrow to answer questions and present information about crofting issues – and last night there was an announcement from the Scottish Government that an additional £10 million will now be targeted at crofters and farmers on Scotland’s most challenging land.
Following last week’s announcement from the Scottish Government regarding plans for the distribution of convergence funding, widespread and grave concerns had been raised over the proportion of that funding which would be going to crofters.
However, after receiving representations from Angus Brendan MacNeil MP, Alasdair Allan MSP and other MSPs and candidates from the Labour and Conservative parties across the Highlands and Islands, Fergus Ewing has unveiled plans to increase the amount of money going to crofters and those farming in marginal areas.
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said: “This is a step in the right direction and I thank the Cabinet Secretary for listening to the arguments made by Angus MacNeil, myself, and others representing crofting interests.
“Today’s announcement means that a majority of the area-based payments from this tranche of funding will be going towards those crofts and farms which currently receive the lowest level of support. I believe this is much closer to the spirit of convergence than the original proposals, and is fairer towards crofters.
“This was the first of two tranches of money arising from convergence funding, and I will be making further representations to the Scottish Government to ensure that the second tranche is distributed in a way which is fair to crofters and those farming in marginal areas.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus MacNeil has also welcomed the announcement. He said: “It is commendable that the Scottish Government has looked again at this issue. Happily, they have listened to the voices of many concerned crofters and an additional £10 million is to be allocated.
“At the moment the best mechanisms of allocating the £10 million are being sought and will certainly be good reason for further lobbying of the Scottish Government. One thing that is clear, is that £10 million extra is coming for marginal and crofting land, which is something I am pleased about.
“Campaigners who have been working on this in the past few days have to be congratulated for getting the Scottish Government to take action."
The announcement last week was about long-delayed ‘convergence money’ from the EU be paid on by UK Government to the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government then outlined how the initial £80 million worth of convergence funding would be distributed. This is part of a £160 million package the UK Government has agreed to pay to rectify a ‘historic wrong’ relating to EU Common Agricultural Policy funding that it failed to pass on to Scotland between 2014-2020. Crofting organisations protested that Mr Ewing missed a golden opportunity when he announced the formula by which the money was to be awarded, as it did not adequately address the disadvantages faced by crofters on remote and marginal land.