Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) is spelling out crofters’ outrage at Scottish Government allocation of convergence uplift.
“Whilst the announced allocation of the convergence funding is a slight improvement over the NFUS proposal“, said SCF’s chair, Yvonne White, “it is still a disgraceful misuse of the money that was intended to help those on very low payments.
"This is not ‘true to the principles of convergence’ that Fergus Ewing sanctimoniously claimed - to the Scottish Parliament - he has upheld. Quite the opposite in fact. We have all been misled.”
The original intention of ‘External Convergence’ was to ensure a more equal distribution of direct agricultural support between Member States. Member States that had direct payments per hectare below 90% of the Union average were to close the gap between their level and this average, with all Member States arriving by financial year 2020 at a minimum level representing roughly 75% of the Union average.
Ms White went on to say, “Scottish Government has clearly disregarded this intention in allocating the greatest proportion of the money to Region 1, land that already receives 91% of the European average! This is a shameful injustice – the very words Mr Ewing used to describe the UK Government’s original misappropriation of this money. The justification given by Scottish Government is cringingly weak and demonstrates warped political will. It looks remarkably like a ruse to give more to those that already have. It does not, as Mr Ewing claimed, help ‘those who need help most – those who farm on our marginal land’. These producers on Region 3 land still receive a pitiful amount.
“The written information has been careful to not mention LFASS but Mr Ewing has made it clear in his address to parliament that he sees this money as a way of making up the LFASS shortfall caused by the Scottish Government by not introducing a new system based on Areas of Natural Constraint when they had the opportunity. Is this even legal? It would be blatantly stealing money that has a clear purpose to fill a self-inflicted funding gap.
"We reiterate our assertion that the convergence money exists to compensate producers who have received very low per-hectare payments. The LFASS gap will need to be filled, as Mr Ewing has pledged, but from elsewhere.
“Crofters are very cynical about this allocation” concluded Ms White. “Scottish Government has perverted the intention of convergence and is taking money that rightfully should be only used for those with payments below the threshold and instead is giving it to those above. There can be no moral justification for this no matter how cleverly the sleight of hand is performed.”