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By Martin Kelly
A Scottish MEP has said he is "beyond angry" after learning that the UK Government plans to withhold EU cash that was supposed to go to Scottish farmers.
SNP MEP Alyn Smith has reacted angrily to news that the UK government has today (Friday) announced that it will not pass on hundreds of millions of pounds in EU agriculture payments to Scotland which only accrue to the UK because of Scotland's unique agriculture.
The shock decision comes despite a cross party call from Scottish politicians at Holyrood, including the Labour, Tory and Lib Dem parties as well as the Scottish government, for the payment to be passed on.
A furious Mr Smith said:
"I'm beyond angry at this remarkable decision, I had in my naivety taken it to be a foregone conclusion, especially after the very sensible cross party consensus at Holyrood united to fight Scotland's corner."
The money, amounting to almost a quarter of a billion euros over the next seven years, accrues purely because of the poor Common Agriculture Budget allocation awarded to Scotland's farmers. The decision will see Scottish farming losing out on €60million a year until 2020, some €230million in funds to which they are objectively entitled.
The MEP added: "I don't use phrases like 'slap in the face' or 'treating Scotland with contempt', but it is difficult to dress this one up as anything else. This money only comes to the UK because of Scotland's poor CAP budget allocation, and to see the funds go elsewhere - a badger goalpost moving cull perhaps! - is an outrage.
"Scotland's farmers are entitled to this money. The EU allocated the budget to our member state government in order to rectify the situation we have in Scotland. It is being withheld, I'll do my utmost to reverse this dreadful decision and I call upon all of Scotland's politicians to continue our cross party efforts to fight Scotland's corner."
The decision is a snub to the Scottish Parliament after a cross party letter was sent to the UK Government in October.
Addressed to the UK Government's Rural Affairs Secretary Owen Paterson and copied to Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, the cross-party letter followed a debate in the Scottish Parliament where MSPs agreed that the UK's full uplift should come to Scotland in its entirety.
The letter was signed by Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment; Claire Baker, Rural Affairs Spokesperson for Scottish Labour; Alex Fergusson, Rural Affairs Spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives; and Tavish Scott, Rural Affairs Spokesperson for the Scottish Liberal Democrats.
The letter stated:
"We are writing to express cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament on an issue relating to the imminent decision on the within-UK allocation of the UK's CAP budget receipts for 2014 to 2020: namely, the need for the UK's external convergence receipts under CAP Pillar 1 to be allocated to Scotland.
"These receipts only exist because of Scotland's current position. All other parts of the UK are above the threshold set by the EU for external convergence, and it is only because of Scotland's extremely low average level of Pillar 1 payments per hectare that the UK as a whole fell below the threshold and qualified for an external convergence uplift. Passing on this uplift to Scotland will also not entail any deductions at all for farming colleagues in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.
"The European methodology focussed entirely on per-hectare levels of payment, and the within-UK decision must be on the same basis.
"It is helpful that the European Commission has quantified the uplift precisely, so that it is possible to know exactly how much funding is involved and avoid any risk of cutting into funding which should correctly go to farmers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
"We urge you to acknowledge that the only fair outcome on the external convergence funding is for it to come to Scotland, the only part of the UK to be below the EU's threshold. We would welcome an opportunity to meet with you to discuss this important subject."