Sunday, 9 July 2017

Five Key Questions on Farming for UK Tory Environment Secretary

SNP Demand: Honour Promises Made to Scottish Farmers

The SNP has challenged new Tory Environment Secretary Michael Gove to answer five key questions on Scottish farming, following his promises in recent weeks that farmers and crofters would not lose out after Brexit.

The Tories have so far failed to give farmers and wider rural interests guarantees over future funding beyond 2022 and most fear that Michael Gove, an economic right-winger, is gearing up to scrap them altogether post-Brexit.

When asked directly if Scottish farmers would lose out on subsidies through Brexit, Mr Gove gave a direct “no” in response. However senior Tories have raised the spectre of a Westminster power grab – stating that devolved powers over agriculture would not automatically return to the Scottish Parliament. And Tory plans for a new “agri-environment system” suggest future funding decisions and priorities will be imposed upon Scotland.

Deputy convener of Holyrood’s Rural Economy Committee, Gail Ross, has challenged Michael Gove to continue his frank approach by offering Yes or No answers to the following five questions:
  • Will the UK government guarantee that Scotland’s farmers and crofters will receive at least the same level of support as they do at present?
  • Will Michael Gove now guarantee funding for Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) for 2019?
  • In any future system, will Scotland get the equivalent or more than the 16.5% share it currently receives in EU agricultural funding?
  • Will Michael Gove demonstrate his intent by honouring a previous promise dating back to 2013 to give Scotland’s farmers their £160 million convergence monies?
  • Will the Tories rule out the possibility of a Westminster power grab over Scottish farming and food production once and for all?
Commenting, Gail Ross MSP said:

“It’s no secret that Michael Gove is the sort of laissez faire right-winger who would happily sell off, or sell out anything he gets his hands on in government.

“Throughout his time in politics he’s pushed for the NHS to be dismantled and for schools to be marketised. People should be extremely sceptical about what’s in store for farmers, crofters and our wider rural community in Scotland.

“But if we take him at his word that Scotland’s farmers will not lose out on subsidies through the Tories’ damaging plans for Brexit then he still has key questions to answer.

“The UK government got us into this mess – they now have the responsibility for reassuring farmers that they won’t pull the plug on much-needed agricultural support after Brexit.

“What happens beyond 2022? Does rural support fall off a cliff edge? Does Scotland get the funding to match the powers we must get to support farmers? Or will Westminster undermine our nation’s parliament and reverse the gains of devolution with a shameless Tory power grab?

“It’s high time we had some straight answers from Michael Gove and his colleagues – it’s the very least that Scotland’s farmers and crofters deserve.”
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