UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove left the Royal Highland showground last night after spectacularly failing to give the Scottish farming industry the one key assurance it demanded – that the long-promised review into the allocation of £160 million of convergence funding would go ahead.
Earlier in the day Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said he expected a commitment from Mr Gove that the review into the money allocated to the UK from the EU to bring Scotland’s per hectare subsidy support figure more in line with the European average would go ahead.
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick also described the funding as a “big target” that needed to be sorted out in his talks with Mr Gove.
However, Mr Gove refused to commit to any review and said it was in the hands of the Treasury.
He said: “We’re going to make sure Scotland receives the support it needs in the future and make sure the unique circumstances of Scotland’s geography and farming sector are reflected in the allocations we make.”
Later Mr McCornick said: “We had a very frank and constructive meeting with the Secretary of State Michael Gove, but learned little that was new.
“On future budgets, the matter of how much money Scottish agriculture will receive up until the end of the current parliament has still to be clarified and on the specific subject of convergence, no further commitments to review this matter ahead of deciding future post-Brexit budgets for Scottish agriculture were received.”
Mr Ewing insisted it was “completely unacceptable” that the convergence issue remained unresolved, not just because the money was originally intended for Scottish hill farmers.
He said: “It will also be vital to determine the allocation of funding intra-UK post-Brexit, and Commissioner Hogan’s proposals include an aim to reduce the difference between the farm payments by further convergence.
“Were Scotland to remain in the EU, we would be the biggest beneficiaries because in 2019 Scottish farmers will receive the lowest payment per hectare of any part of Europe.”