The row over convergence cash may be coming to an end, but farmers should remember the very recent harm Brexit’s architects have done to Scottish agriculture, says John Finnie, Green MSP for the Highlands and Islands.
Farmers Guardian is not supporting any political party in the December election.
We have run an article by Labour’s Kerry McCarthy alongside this piece from John Finnie.
During the course of the campaign, we will be carrying or have carried articles from Conservative, Liberal Democrat, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Brexit Party candidates or members.
While a huge amount of progress has been made towards righting the wrongs perpetrated on Scotland by the UK Government, the convergence payment saga has not yet reached its end.
The unity of purpose with which the Scottish Parliament approached the issue should be celebrated and is a key part of how we have reached the point where the money will be repatriated.
We’re now in a position where the UK Treasury has confirmed half of the £160m owed to Scotland will be transferred in this financial year.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has confirmed the first instalments will be paid to farmers and crofters by the end of March 2020, with the remainder being distributed before the end of the following tax year.
This is undoubtedly progress, but it’s worth remembering the scale of the scandal which brought us to this point.
This money was allocated to the UK by the EU solely on the basis of Scotland’s agriculture sector.
The Conservative UK Government then decided to distribute the money across Scotland, England, Wales in Northern Ireland directly resulting in Scottish crofters and farmers being deprived of much-needed funds.
This act of Conservative larceny went unresolved for too long, and sadly too late for some.
The Scottish Government has now confirmed the funds will now only be provided to active farmers, meaning many who have retired won’t feel the benefit.
The Cabinet Secretary’s justification for this is understandable. The process for allocating funds to ex-farmers would be costly, time consuming and delay the transfer of funds to those still working in agriculture.
It will, however, remain a bitter pill to swallow for many.
But it is important to remember the responsibility for this lies squarely at the feet of the Conservative Party, who willingly misused funds from Europe and were painfully reluctant to address their dishonesty.
It took a sustained campaign from across the Scottish political spectrum for the UK Government to even acknowledge their wrongdoing and longer still for concrete steps taken towards making amends.
This issue was still ongoing at the height of the Brexit referendum when our current Prime Minister was all too keen to misrepresent, distort and twist facts about the European Union, while his party’s Government was blatantly misusing EU money given in good faith.
It is therefore entirely rational to be sceptical of the Conservative’s willingness to look after the interests of Scottish agriculture after we leave the EU, if we leave at all.
There remain so many unanswered questions for farmers and crofters, but one thing is very clear.
The architects of Brexit have in the very recent past done active harm to Scottish agriculture without flinching. That should not be forgotten.
John can be found tweeting at @JohnFinnieHI