CONVERGENCE FUNDING must not plug the gap in Less Favoured Area Support Scheme funding for 2020.

Scotland's farming union has redrawn its red line, that any shortfall in funding for the Pillar 2 scheme must not be taken by 'raiding' the industry's hard won Pillar 1 convergence funding.

NFUS has reaffirmed this in a letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing, but also took the opportunity to welcome new devolved Scottish legislation which will see the payment rates for each future year of LFASS fixed at the 2018 rate – thereby implying a return to the traditional budget of some £65 million per year.

President Andrew McCornick said: “The LFASS claims made in 2019 were paid at 80% of 2018 levels, as necessitated by the EU’s LFA ‘parachute’ regulations. In lieu of the shortfall, farmers and crofters in receipt of LFASS then received further funds via the ‘upland support’ component from the first tranche of the convergence payments.

“As we know, EU requirements would see LFASS 2020 payments drop to 40% of their 2018 value," he explained. "If the Scottish Government’s intention is to pay 2020 claims at 40% of 2018 levels complemented by an increase in ‘upland support’ convergence payments, then this would entail a significant re-distribution of support as ‘upland support’ payments fail to reflect the costs of remoteness or the value of mixed livestock enterprises.

“Our LFA Committee has been crystal clear," he continued. "They want to see 2018 rates fully re-instated for 2020 claims to ensure this potentially damaging redistribution can be avoided. We believe that can be done by redefining the ‘upland support’ payment to include the LFASS fragility markers and cattle multipliers creating a like-for-like ‘LFASS’ payment.

“With the second tranche of convergence to come, worth some £70 million, NFU Scotland’s position remains solid. Convergence was won through Pillar 1 and should be delivered through Pillar 1. Convergence funding should not be used to resolve the LFASS shortfall,” he concluded.