Scottish agriculture could be in for a £160m boost as a by-product of the Tory Party leadership race.
If Boris Johnson wins, he has committed to making the money available to remedy the ‘historic injustice’ caused by the past allocation of EU CAP funding.
Scottish Government and farming bodies have long called foul on the allocation of what is known as internal convergence funding believing that Scotland was short changed by £160m over the period 2013-2020.
It looked as if this was destined to become a historic grievance which would never be resolved but this morning (Thursday) Boris Johnson commited to paying the whole sum to Scottish Government should be become Prime Minister.
Mr Johnson said: “It is only right that, after we leave the EU on 31 October, we take this historic opportunity to unite our country. As we leave the CAP we can address many of the historic injustices that system introduces, and make sure that Scotland’s farmers get the support that they are owed.”
Much of the credit seems to be due to the personal initiative of former NFU president Jim Walker working with local MP Alistair Jack.
A jubilant Mr Walker said: “I got to know Boris Johnson when he was Major of London and I was a director of Argent Energy. He acted quickly then to introduce the use of biofuel on public transport and I could see he was capable of making decisions.
"I thought it was a unique opportunity to take things forward as regards internal convergence. I am delighted because this will be the biggest single injection of new cash into Scottish farming for 20 years.”
Mr Walker has already been heavily involved with the issue in his capacity as Fergus Ewing’s appointee to the Bew Review.
Lord Bew is expected unveil the findings before Parliament goes into recess at the end of July.
Mr Walker said: “The review had been constructive but the terms of reference were poor and did not allow us to look back at the historic injustice. There is no way I was going to accept that even though most farming representative bodies had given up on it.
“Fergus Ewing to his credit did stick with it.”
“Scottish farmers should be eternally grateful for this commitment from Boris. This is not about him playing to the party faithful. Most will already have voted. But it does send a message about his commitment to Scotland within the Union.”
As to how the £160m should be disbursed Mr Walker believes it should be used to support the beleaguered beef and sheep sectors.
“Suckler cow numbers have been dropping for years and beef prices are at real low just now. This money should be used for coupled payments. For example it could boost the calf scheme payments to about five times the present level.”
“There is no way this money is to be used as compensation for a no-deal Brexit. There is £6bn set aside for this already. It is also not to be used as an excuse for Derek McKay (Scottish Finance Minister) not to come up with money for the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS).
"This £160m of new money is 100% for righting a wrong done in the past and anyone who wants to argue the point will need to argue it with me.”
The £160m will apparently come from the £26bn ‘Brexit headroom’ fund already identified by Chancellor Philip Hammond.