Defra Secretary Michael Gove has refused to hand over any convergence cash to Scotland, claiming the decision to spread the money across the UK would be ‘difficult to unpick’.
He made the remarks when he appeared before the new Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee yesterday.
Kilmarnock and Loudon MP Alan Brown had asked whether Defra would commit to passing on the convergence uplift money, which was granted to the UK by the EU in 2014 because of low area payments in Scotland, as a ‘gesture of goodwill’.
But despite promising to speak to Scottish Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing about the cash, Mr Gove refused to say he would hand it over.
“I completely understand why people feel the way they do”, he said.
“But I think the decision having been taken in the way it was is difficult to unpick. One of the things I want to do is to ensure in the future we do right by Scottish farmers.
“It is one of those situations where it is very difficult to unscramble the omelette.”
In May, Farming Minister George Eustice infuriated his SNP colleagues in the House of Commons by claiming discussions on the money had been thrown off course by Brexit.
More recently, Mr Ewing claimed he would be able to plug a gap in funding for hill farmers if Westminster passed the money on.
Asked by Farmers Guardian for an update on the issue, a Defra spokesman highlighted an answer Lord Gardiner had given to a written question on July 10.
The answer, which justified the reasoning behind the decision to distribute the money across the UK, read: “Following agreement of the European Council on the EU Budget for 2014 to 2020, the Government decided in 2013 to maintain the historic split of the UK’s CAP direct payments budget between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
“This decision followed consultation with key stakeholders in each part of the UK and each of the devolved administrations.
“The decision recognised that not all parts of the UK had yet completed the transition to area based payments, making comparisons difficult.
“Scotland received less funding per hectare than other parts of the UK because of its mountainous, and therefore less productive, areas. Scotland has, on average, larger farms than the rest of the UK meaning Scottish farmers received higher than average payments.”