Upland and extensive livestock systems have been under attack from industry associations.
The Scottish farmers’ union, NFU Scotland (NFUS), has made recommendations aimed at securing Less Favoured Areas payments for their more favoured members.
A paper published by NFUS – Less Favoured Areas: Delivering for Scotland – could have been written by the crofters’ representative, the Scottish Crofting Federation (SFC), in the most part.
It has collected all the facts and figures that amply illustrate how the disadvantaged and severely disadvantaged areas of Scotland contribute to food production, environmental health, landscape, thriving communities and so on.
All good, except that near the end you find the ulterior motive: retention of the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) rather than moving to a more effective and equitable scheme. LFASS has been consistently misused to divert public money intended for support to the fragile areas to act as a “top up” for farms on better land.
It was to be replaced by the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) support scheme which was developed to target support and which, as NFUS note in their paper, would move money to those areas that are genuinely constrained.
But the Scottish Government decided not to move to ANC and NFUS supported – indeed take the credit for – this decision. The penalty for not joining ANC is that LFASS will be reduced to 40% next year. As we leave the Common Agricultural Policy (Cap), there is a gathering consensus among stakeholders that there needs to be support for the constrained areas based on ANC in the new agriculture regime for Scotland. The Scottish Government has made it clear it is considering going this way, hence the lobby from the industry farmers.
Meanwhile, the National Beef Association is recommending a tax on beef slaughtered after 27 months, which would be a major issue for crofters, who almost entirely keep grass-fed cattle.
If this tax came into effect it would put many crofters out of business.
- Patrick Krause is chief executive of the Scottish Crofting Federation