Scottish Government has pledged to continue its fight for convergence cash to be returned to hill farmers in Scotland, after it emerged a UK review into the matter had been denied key information.
Defra Secretary Michael Gove launched the review, headed up by Lord Bew, in October 2018, after sustained pressure from Scottish farm groups, Ministers and MSPs.
But now, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has hit out at the UK Government for rejecting Lord Bew’s request to see the advice given to former Secretary of State Owen Paterson, who took the decision in 2013 to share cash intended for Scotland across all four home nations.
Speaking to Farmers Guardian this week (May 15), Mr Ewing said: “When he debated with me in Scotland in February, Mr Gove said he would favour making available the advice given to UK Ministers.
“That has not happened and it is scandalous. If they keep things secret, people are going to ask why.
“I do not think it will really help how Lord Bew’s inquiry will be seen generally if they proceed to issue findings without actually having seen the most basic of evidence as to how this thing arose in the first place.”
Mr Ewing also expressed his disappointment that the Treasury had overruled Mr Gove’s request for the review to look at historic allocations and redistribute money which had already been committed.
The Scottish Government estimated the long-running row has cost every farmer and crofter in Scotland £14,000 each.
Mr Ewing said: “Mr Gove made a promise, but sadly the promise he made was not kept. It was breached because the UK Treasury overruled it.”
Although the figures have yet to be confirmed, it is believed the full convergence uplift for 2020-2022 is about €136 million (£118.5m).
Mr Ewing added: “We think the lion’s share of that should be coming to Scotland, although there is a case for hill farmers in other areas of the UK to have their case looked at.
“If it does, it will be deployed for the rural economy and find its way into the bank accounts of our hill farmers.”
A Defra spokesman said: “We have received the review’s request to provide advice given to previous ministers and will respond soon.”