Back in June, it seemed all hope of Scotland's convergence money was gone...


SCOTTISH FARMERS have lost the battle over their unpaid ‘convergence’ cash, with Defra secretary, Michael Gove, finally admitting that they would not see any of the disputed £160m EU top-up that was awarded to Scotland but allocated elsewhere in the UK by David Cameron’s administration.

During an evidence session where Mr Gove was questioned by the Scottish Parliament’s rural economy and connectivity committee, he admitted that ‘mistakes had been made’: “That money has been allocated and is in the budgets of the various governments of the devolved administrations and we must respect the decisions of the coalition government.

“I cannot call back money which has been spent or has been in budgets that have already been allocated,” insisted Mr Gove. “What we are not doing is clawing money back but what we are doing is being aware that good arguments were made at the time and we will, in good faith, honour the integrity of the individuals who made those decisions at the time.”

In an attempt to placate criticism, Mr Gove stressed his recognition of the unique nature of Scotland’s landscape and argued that future funding allocation would reflect the needs of upland farmers.

“The nature of upland farming in Scotland imposes particular challenges which require a specific level of support,” he said. “My aim is to ensure in future we will allocate funding which is sensitive to the specific needs of each part of the UK. We can look at why decisions were made in the past and perhaps reflect on any mistakes, or errors, or misjudgements, which might have been made then and allow them to inform the future,”he stressed.

LibDem rural economy spokesman, Mike Rumbles, asked Mr Gove whether the current EU farm support funding allocation to Scotland of 16% of the total UK budget would be maintained direct from Westminster.

“Yes, I can absolutely confirm that,” replied Mr Gove, who said that he would continue to honour the devolution settlement, and that how money is spent on Scottish agriculture would be a matter for ScotGov Cabinet Secretary, Fergus Ewing.

“So far I haven’t had any indication from the Scottish Government that they would take any different view,” said Mr Gove. “In the future, we might see, particularly given the nature of Scotland’s unique needs, that we could contribute as a proportion of overall agricultural spending an even bigger slice to Scotland,” he suggested.

Responding to Mr Gove’s convergence admission, a ScotGov spokesman said: “The failure of the UK Government to transfer £160 million of CAP convergence funding - which was made available to the UK principally because of issues in Scotland – is a serious issue for Scottish farmers. The Secretary of State for Rural Affairs should also keep his promise to proceed with the convergence review.

“This demand is not against farmers in other parts of the UK. It is about setting a baseline for future agricultural funding with the UK. Unless the UK Government returns the money, how can we rely on them to treat our farmers fairly in Brexit negotiations and future funding discussions.”