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Agriculture convergence fund fight goes (back) to Brussels

SNP Member of the European Parliament Alyn Smith has today (Tuesday) hosted a meeting with the European Commission attended by John Cameron, Scotland's National Sheep Association and the National Farmers Union Scotland to press Scotland's case on EU CAP convergence funds.

Fury erupted across Scotland at a decision by the UK government to allocate funds (which solely accrue to the UK because of Scotland's poor CAP funding outcome) across the whole of the UK, leaving Scotland's farmers out of pocket.

The delegation (composed of Alyn, John Cameron, George Milne from NSA and Scott Walker, Chief Executive of NFUS) met with Jerzy Plewa, Director General of the Agriculture Directorate of the European Commission.

Speaking after the meeting, Alyn said:

"I'm grateful, as ever, for the support I've received from folks back home along with the Scottish government on this. We do find ourselves in a remarkable position.

"Mr Pleva can be in no doubt at the extent of the anger across Scotland at this flatly wrongheaded decision. The UK government had a choice, and made it against the interests of Scotland's farmers. Sadly, this decision is one which is entirely the remit of the UK government to make and they have underlined, so clearly, that had we been independent representing ourselves we would have done so much better. Indeed, it is objective fact that with the worst outcome in the whole of the EU, we could not have done worse!

"The UK government decision directly contradicted the clear policy intention of the European institutions to redistribute money through removing the link to historical references, though as the UK government response to our parliamentary question at Westminster shows, the decision was evidently made on the basis of maintaining historic references.

"This meeting has clarified that where, under the current constitution, nobody disputed the decision was the UK government's to make, that does not mean that objectively unfair decisions are allowed to stand. I believe there are two objective grounds for challenge, and one thing is certain, I will not let this lie."

Industry elder statesman, John Cameron, added:

"I find the DEFRA Minister's decision on the distribution of the convergence money quite indefensible and totally lacking in logic. The fact of the matter is that the basic reason for the convergence funds being made available in the first place is the low level of SFP presently being paid to Scottish farmers. If these levels of payment had been over a predetermined level then no funds would have been available.

"It is a matter of logic therefore that these funds should be distributed in Scotland. Any discussion on redistribution is a matter for the future but we must maintain pressure to achieve an acceptable solution in the meantime.

"That's why I totally agree with Alyn Smith's view that we have grounds to initiate a challenge and therefore we should proceed accordingly."

George Milne, Development Officer of the National Sheep Association, said:

"I emphasised to the Commission that surely this is against the principles and the aims of what they set out to achieve which was quite clearly to top up those who were below the average payment and not to increase others who were already above the average. I believe that Mr Plewa has understood this point and taken it on board."