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4 September 2019

MSP Welcomes Convergence Statement in Parliament as Villiers Ignores Plea

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed yesterday’s statement in the Scottish Parliament by Rural Secretary Fergus Ewing on the repatriation of convergence funding withheld from Scotland’s farmers by the Westminster Government.

In his statement, Mr Ewing expressed the hope that “we can come together as a Parliament and focus on the final part of this six-year-long campaign to ensure its success and the delivery of the funding that is owed to Scottish farming”.

Mr Ewing continued: “In doing so, I offer the reflection that this Parliament is often at its best when we can act together and support with one voice a campaign to repatriate money that, plainly, is in the interests of our farmers and crofters, who face very real and pressing challenges in the short and medium term, as we all know.”

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The expressions of support from across the parties in the Chamber yesterday for the return of this funding to Scotland’s farmers was very heartening.

“However, it is now nearly six weeks since I wrote to the new Conservative DEFRA Secretary Theresa Villiers asking her to carry out the will of the new Prime Minister and return the £160million in convergence funding which the Westminster Government has been withholding from Scotland’s farmers.

“It is extremely disappointing that the Secretary of State has not even seen fit to acknowledge my letter, let alone reply on an issue of such importance to farmers in the North-east.

“Scottish farmers have not forgotten that the UK Tory Government has withheld £160m in funding rightfully due to them. It is solely because of Scotland that the UK, as the Member State, qualified for this funding.”

The £160million of convergence funding was allocated by the EU to Scotland and retained by the Conservative Government. However, new Prime Minister Boris Johnston appeared to give a commitment to “make sure Scotland’s farmers get the support they are owed” at a Conservative Leadership hustings event in July. Stewart Stevenson wrote to Theresa Villiers on 29 July asking her to make good in the new PM’s pledge and release the money.

Commenting at the time, Mr Stevenson said:

“The new Secretary of State has an opportunity early in her tenure to set right this historic wrong. New Prime Minister Boris Johnston has given a commitment, which has been welcomed by the NFUS President, so it should be a simple matter of carrying out the will of the PM and paying the money.

“Scottish farmers will be expecting more than warm words from the new Secretary of State. She needs to send a clear signal to Scottish farmers that she understands their distinct challenges and is prepared to pay them what is rightfully theirs. In other words, she needs to decide whether she will back Scotland’s farmers, or betray them like her predecessor.”

Mr Stevenson has today written again to Theresa Villiers on the matter.

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