Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary has welcomed the Treasury pledge to pay £160 million of convergence money, but at the same time he has made it very clear he wants the money now, not at some future date.
Speaking to journalists at a Holyrood briefing on Wednesday (September 18), he said: “After six years of seemingly banging our heads against a brick wall, I am very pleased the campaign has paid off.
“But the money is not here and the cheque is not even in the post. I want it now so the lion’s share can to whom it was intended.”
Mr Ewing clearly has concerns that any incoming administration might not feel bound to make the payment as pledged by Boris Johnson and confirmed by Chancellor Sajid Javid.
Mr Ewing added: “Normal expenditure from an autumn statement might not arrive until the following spring, but this is not a normal decision. This is money which was wrongfully withheld and it should be paid straight away.”
He confirmed that, along with senior officials, he had been looking at how best to deploy funds and confirmed the decisions would be made within his department rather than through a stakeholder group.
It was his intention to invest the money in farming for the future and there would be no recompense for those who had lost out in the years after 2013 but were no longer farming.
Tracing people and establishing claims would use up too many resources, he said.
Mr Ewing indicated that modelling was underway to find the best use for the funds.
He added: “Supporting mixed livestock farming is at the centre of my thoughts, but I do not believe this should simply be a proxy for the Less Favoured Area Scheme. We want to see help going to those who need it most.”
Scots Gov loan scheme
The Scottish Government’s loan scheme, which effectively offers 95 per cent advance payments of Basic Payment Scheme money, is being well supported, according to Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing.
Of the €398 million on offer, €353m has been taken up. In terms of applications, 12,615 loan applications had been signed and returned out of the 16,835 offers sent out.
Mr Ewing said: “I cannot stress enough that people should have total confidence that the money is there. There are no circumstances under which payments will not be made.
“I believe this loan offer is the biggest single measure taken anywhere in the UK to mitigate against the risks of a no-deal Brexit.”
A senior official confirmed loan applications will be accepted until next Friday (September 27).
Payments to all applicants will be made in early October, possibly within four days of the euro/sterling exchange rate being finalised at the end of September.