Less Favoured Area Support Scheme

– in the Scottish Parliament on 16th December 2020.

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Photo of Annie Wells Annie Wells Conservative

4. To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to NFU Scotland’s call for less favoured area support scheme payments for 2020 to be fully reinstated to 2018 rates. (S5O-04836)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

As I have set out on numerous occasions, I am determined to ensure that the level of support for those who farm in our upland and most challenging areas should be effectively maintained.

I can reassure farmers and crofters that although the rules mean that we cannot reinstate LFASS payments to 2018 levels for 2020, eligible recipients will receive additional payments to maintain or improve their financial position.

Photo of Annie Wells Annie Wells Conservative

[

Inaudible

.]—has been—

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Excuse me, Ms Wells. Unfortunately, we lost your voice at the beginning of your supplementary. Could you start at the beginning, please?

Photo of Annie Wells Annie Wells Conservative

NFU Scotland has been, in its words, “crystal clear” that the 2018 rates should be reinstated for the 2020 claims to avoid a damaging settlement for Scotland’s farmers. It says that

“‘upland support’ payments fail to reflect the costs of remoteness or the value of mixed livestock enterprises”,

and believes that the 2018 rates can be reinstated within European Union rules

“by redefining the ‘upland support’ payment to include the LFASS fragility markers and cattle multipliers”.

Will the cabinet secretary listen to the NFUS and change his position to support Scottish farmers?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I listen to the NFUS almost all the time. We engage with the organisation frequently.

We have maintained the level of support to hill farmers this year. The payments for 2020 will be made early next year. In addition to that, I have indicated that, for the following year, 2021, LFASS will go back to 100 per cent—the full rate. That announcement was very well received by the NFUS. I believe that it is entirely in support of that, and we are working with it on the long-term future of LFASS. Hill farmers’ income is essential, and it will be maintained.

I was not aware that Annie Wells, as a member with a Glasgow constituency, had an acute interest in hill farming. Nonetheless, it beggars belief for the Tories to lecture us on funding for farmers when the United Kingdom Government is cutting the money that we will get up to 2025 by £170 million. I think that a little less sermonising would be appropriate.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Emma Harper has a supplementary question. I ask her to make it quick, please.

Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

During the Brexit campaign, our farmers and crofters were promised that we would not be left worse off if Scotland left the EU. Will the cabinet secretary reaffirm how much our farmers stand to lose over the next five years as a result of the Tory Government’s handling of Brexit?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Nobody in this chamber has a scooby about what is going to happen about Brexit in the next few days, and the real tragedy about that is that we have been arguing the case for Scotland’s farmers for the past four years.

An example is our hill farmers’ sale of lamb. If they lose the European market, they will lose a very substantial proportion of their income, which will require a compensation scheme involving a very substantial amount of money.

They risk losing markets, and we know that they are already facing cuts by the Tories of £170 million. That represents a complete breach of the promises that were made to persuade people to vote for Brexit in the first place. If those promises had not been made, one wonders whether we would be facing Brexit at all.