Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary, Fergus Ewing, has accused the prime minister of trying to renege on his promise to return £160 million of EU convergence funds to Scottish farmers.
On taking office, Boris Johnson told the Commons he would restore the money to Scottish farming.
However, after receiving a letter from UK Rural Affairs Secretary Theresa Villiers in which she said it would be a matter the Treasury would decide, Mr Ewing claimed she had reneged on the promise. He said the issue of returning mone initially earmarked for Scotland by the EU to create fairer support payments across a range of European countries went to the heart of the new prime minister’s integrity.
Mr Ewing said: “The letter from Theresa Villiers simply says that this is an issue to be determined by the Treasury, repeating earlier UK Government comments that suggest this cash should be for all parts of the UK.
“The money was awarded by the EU specifically for Scottish farmers and crofters and it must go to them.
“And if he (Mr Johnson)is prepared to backslide on what he says in the House of Commons, it suggests he simply cannot be trusted.
“The prime minister should clear this up once and for all by restating his commitment and ensuring this money makes its way to Scottish farmers and crofters, as it was always supposed to.”
Farmers union president Andrew McCornick said NFU Scotland was still expecting the convergence funds to be delivered as promised. “We are maintaining the pressure on the prime minister and Ms Villiers, asking them for meetings after the commitment that was given,” he said.
A spokesperson for Defra said: “We will shortly be publishing the recommendations from an independent review, led by Lord Bew, looking at how future funding can be fairly allocated outside the EU.
“This will take into account the unique farming environments in certain parts of the UK.”