SCOTLAND'S FARM support budget should be allocated an extra £51million over the next two years, to 'draw a line under the long-running concern' that Scottish farmers have been short-changed by Westminster's division of available funds.

This is the central conclusion of Lord Bew's review of how future agri-funding allocations should meet the needs of farmers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and it has been accepted by the UK government.

Lord Bew's recommendation is closely related to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's backdated decision to give Scotland the £160million of EU convergence money that was diverted for national use in 2014 – having acknowledged that the historic misdirection of that money was a mistake, and moved to rectify it, the UK Government has now accepted the need to increase Scotland's farm support budget in the next budget period.

In effect, the delayed effort to 'converge' Scotland's low per acre payment rates with

And, in a heartening development for the many industry observers who have been concerned about the future overall size of the UK's agricultural spending, the Government has also accepted that while Scotland should now receive more, that should not happen at the expense of farmers elsewhere in the Home Nations – so the overall budget devoted to agriculture will be increased to take account of the extra going to Scotland.

Welcoming Lord Bew's conclusions, Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers said: "Up until now, agriculture funding between different parts of the UK has been influenced almost entirely by the objectives of the Common Agricultural Policy. Once we have left the European Union, it will be the complete responsibility of governments here to make decisions on how best we support our farmers, so Defra in England and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can spend public money however they see fit.

"This means that in future, we are all accountable to you, the electorate, for the decisions we make. The basis on which allocations are made between our respective budgets does not determine how we spend those budgets. But because of the diverse geography of the UK it matters very much how agriculture funding is divided between us. We have a unique opportunity as we leave the EU to decide how money used to support our farming sectors reflects the individual needs of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

"We also have an opportunity to draw a line under concerns associated with the methodologies and decisions of the past, and agree a sustainable solution for a long-term agricultural funding settlement. Scottish farmers have been arguing for some years that a proportion of the Common Agricultural Policy funding – ‘convergence funding’ – was wrongly allocated in 2013," Said Ms Villiers. "This view is not shared in all parts of the UK, so I am very grateful to Lord Bew and his fellow panel members for considering how to address the ‘convergence’ issue in the round, in the context of the government’s funding commitments in this Parliament.

"I am very pleased that we have not only been able to accommodate the panel’s requests for funding and the allocation they recommend, but we have been able to go further and provide to Scottish farmers all the convergence funding they feel they should have received between 2014 and 2020," she stated.

"We are also pleased to confirm that this additional funding – on top of the Bew Review’s recommendations – is a one-off solution to draw a line under the long-running concern Scottish farmers have had. The funding is being provided to address perceptions of unfairness with historical allocations of Common Agricultural Policy funding. Decisions on future funding allocations will consider the needs of farmers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and we will work with the devolved administrations to agree the right approach.

"The review has made some important and interesting proposals about the process for determining that future funding settlement, and its shape. I look forward to discussing those proposals with my colleagues in HM Treasury and my counterparts in the devolved administrations, as we all seek to make the most of our departure from the EU."

Welcoming the recommendations, Scottish Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “For five years, we have resolutely been arguing for the rights of Scotland’s farmers, cajoling and urging the UK Government to rectify this historic injustice, which has seen Scottish farmers miss out on up to £160 million of financial support over the last six years.

“And while it is important that the past monies are now being repatriated, we also needed to stop the unfairness continuing into the future. I therefore welcome the findings of Lord Bew and his review panel, which call on the UK Government to increase future funding by up to €60 million over two years as a result.

“We now need the UK Government to accept the findings in full and to move swiftly to delivering to Scotland all the funding that we are entitled to," said Mr Ewing. "With agriculture being fully devolved, I expect the UK Government to return this money to Scotland as soon as possible and without any strings attached. I am clear, that should we receive what has now been recommended, that it is only right and proper, given its origins, that this €60 million be ring-fenced in Scotland for agriculture.

“I know how much time and effort Lord Bew, and Jim Walker, Scotland’s representative on the panel, gave to this work and want to thank them for their diligence and for listening to Scotland’s case.”

Early industry reactions to the Bew conclusions have been enthusiastic – Scottish Land and Estates' executive director Sarah-Jane Laing said: “This is further excellent news for Scottish agriculture following the £160m allocated in the Spending Round on Wednesday.

“It is important that this funding is used to support the entire sector and encourages innovation as the industry adjusts to the challenges and opportunities ahead.”