At yesterday's meeting of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee, MEPs from across the EU heard from Richard Lochhead on how the new Common Agricultural Policy is being implemented in Scotland, and what issues have come about due to the limited powers of the Scottish government and Scotland's unique agricultural environment.
Above: Alyn (left) with Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead (centre) and Cllr Tony Buchanan (Rapporteur for the Committee of the Regions on CAP simplification)
The Cabinet Secretary also took the opportunity to highlight his five demands for Europe: postponement of inspection demands to allow for early payments to farmers to be made; further CAP simplification; an appropriate share of the recent EU aid package for farmers; concrete measures to be taken to address supermarket and retailer power over producers; and a guarantee that convergence money due to Scotland cannot be hijacked by the UK government in future.
Speaking after the hearing, Alyn Smith, SNP MEP on the Agriculture Committee, said:
"The UK's obstructionist approach to CAP negotiations has certainly not provided a guide on how to make friends and influence people, so the Cabinet Secretary's presentation of the CAP implementation situation in Scotland was a welcome effort to highlight that we in Scotland have a different agricultural sector to the rest of the UK, and that we do politics differently.
"It was also valuable in serving as a reminder that Scotland's farmers are still out of pocket due to the actions of the UK government, losing out on around €60million a year until 2020, some €230million in funds. This money only comes to the UK from the EU because of Scotland's poor CAP budget allocation, and to see the funds go elsewhere is an absolute outrage and it is right that our colleagues in Europe are made aware of this.
"I hope that the presentation by the Cabinet Secretary will serve to press the Commission to make sure that, in future, there is greater scrutiny by the EU to see that CAP money is distributed to the quarters where it is intended, rather than leaving it to the discretion of the member state government."