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FAIR FUNDING FOR FARMERS ACROSS ALL PARTS OF UK

Independent panel will look at how funding supports the needs of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

The Government has announced a review to deliver fair funding for farmers in all four parts of the UK when we leave the EU.

The Secretary of State announced today that an independent advisory panel will look at what factors should determine the distribution of agriculture funding between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in this Parliament.

This will consider each country’s individual circumstances, including environmental, agricultural and socio-economic factors. Farm numbers and farm sizes will also be taken into account to make sure all parts of the UK are treated fairly. 

The review, led by Lord Bew of Donegore, will provide recommendations for how the annual amount of convergence funding is fairly split between the four countries in the remainder of this Parliament once the UK has left the Common Agricultural Policy. It will be informed by previous allocations but will not revisit these decisions or redistribute money that has already been committed.

Lord Bew was Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life for five years and has contributed to a number of Bills, reviews and reports since his appointment as a non-party-political peer by the independent House of Lords Appointments Commission in February 2007. He will be joined on the panel by representatives from each devolved administration to ensure that their voices are heard.

The government is also committing that it will not simply apply the Barnett formula to changes in Defra funding beyond this Parliament. This means that farmers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will not just be allocated funding according to the population size of each nation, which are in each case significantly smaller than England.

The Government has already confirmed that overall funding for UK farm support will be protected in cash terms to the end of the Parliament in 2022, providing more certainty than any other EU member state.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:

“This important review, led by Lord Bew, will explore how we can deliver funding for farmers that supports the individual needs of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“We are committed to making sure that future funding is fairly allocated, and are also confirming that the Government won’t simply apply the Barnett formula to Defra’s funding beyond this parliament.

“Meanwhile our funding commitment up until the end of the Parliament gives more certainty for UK farmers than any other EU member state.”

Lord Bew said:

“I’m very pleased to be chairing this review to explore an issue that is important to so many in the agriculture sector. I am anxious to consult widely and I look forward to getting started as soon as my fellow panel members have been appointed.”

Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns said:

“This review will establish fair funding arrangements for our vital Welsh farming industry. With the UK Government committing to do away with a Barnett model for agricultural funding, farmers in every part of Wales can look forward to greater future financial protection.”

Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell said:

“The UK Government is committed to delivering fair funding for farmers and has already guaranteed the same cash total for farm support in all parts of the UK until 2022. This review is an opportunity to ensure the challenges Scotland’s unique landscape brings are fully recognised in future farm support allocations.

“Under the present arrangements, Scotland receives twice as much money for farming support than might be expected were the Barnett formula alone to be used. The commitment that future agriculture funding will not simply be Barnettised should be welcomed across the board.

“This reinforces our commitment to Scottish farmers and I urge the Scottish Government to stop keeping them in the dark about its plans for the future of agriculture in Scotland.”

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, said:

"The farming industry is one of Northern Ireland’s most significant employers, making a vital contribution to economic growth.

"We welcome this important review into ensuring a fair allocation of funding for farmers across Northern Ireland and the whole of the United Kingdom." 

  

The review will conclude prior to the 2019 Spending Review with the aim of informing future funding decisions. The Terms of Reference can be read in full on gov.uk

Dumfries and Galloway to Lose Millions in EU Funding

A new online database had laid the bare the cost to Dumfries and Galloway of the UK’s exit from the European Union.

The online tool shows that the EU has invested upwards of £90 million in the area across a wide range of sectors including education, research, employment and young people.

Perhaps the most damning statistic is that the region is set to miss out on heavy EU investment in agriculture.  In 2017, the bloc spent £82,480,719 to support 2,006 farmers around Dumfries and Galloway.

Local SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:

“Dumfries and Galloway has been well served by our membership of the EU.  The figures do not lie.  This is why Scotland voted so decisively to remain.

“But our wishes have been entirely ignored by the UK Government.  Their reckless agenda will hurt the people and communities that are protected by continued EU investment.

“Dumfries and Galloway is a largely rural economy.  How can the loss of £82 million investment into farming be anything but damaging?  The UK Government has provided no clarity as to how this will be replaced. 

“We are being dragged out of the European Union against our will;Dumfries and Galloway and Scotland will suffer because of it.”

The EU invests around £5billion a year in the UK, and the European single market is around eight times bigger than the UK internal market.

MSP URGES TRANSPORT SECRETARY TO INTERVENE TO SECURE ALTERNATIVE RAIL PROVISION FOLLOWING DELAYS IN WORK TO FULLY RE-OPEN AYR STATION

South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Connectivity and Transport Colin Smyth has called on Transport Secretary Michael Matheson to intervene over the current disruption to rail services from Ayr station.

The call comes after South Ayrshire council last week stated that inspections of the former Ayr Station Hotel had now deemed that the roof is in a more dangerous condition than had been anticipated. The additional work that will be required is likely to extend the time needed to secure the safety of the building, prompting a continuation of the current disruption to rail services, which currently includes no southbound services between Ayr and Stranraer.

Colin Smyth wants the Transport Secretary to step in to insist that a temporary station is opened to allow a reinstatement of some services while work continues at Ayr Station, with one option being the ScotRail depot off Carrick Road, just south of Ayr Station (known as the Townhead Depot). 

Colin Smyth said, “Hard pressed passengers have been patient and put up with the far from ideal replacement bus services to and from Stranraer and the reduced capacity from Ayr to Glasgow. However, that patience is being tested by the news that there is likely to be further delays to work at Ayr station and they are no further forward in fully reinstating services. The fact there are no services whatsoever south of Ayr is just not acceptable and we need urgent action. That’s why I’ve written to Transport Secretary Michael Matheson and called on him to personally intervene on the matter to get rail services moving. In particular he must insist that efforts to set up a temporary station, possibly at the ScotRail depot off Carrick Road in Ayr, should be speeded up. A temporary station would allow services to start running south of Ayr once again. It is a model that was used in the north of England when flooding hit communities such as Workington back in 2009 and every effort should be made to put in place such a solution for passengers in Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway being hit so badly by this disruption.”

Post Office Closue in Langholm, Replacement Service Not Good Enough says MSP

The Post Office must do more to secure the future of post office services in the town of Langholm, according to South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth.

The local MSP’s comments come after Post Office Ltd confirmed that the Post Office within the Londis shop in Langholm will close on 13 November. It will be replaced by a mobile service from the car park behind Langholm Town Hall on Wednesday’s from 12:30pm until 3.30pm and Friday’s from 09:00 - 15:30, commencing on 14 November.

Post Office Ltd say the arrangements are “temporary” while they search for a long term solution, however Colin Smyth has described the proposals as “not good enough” and earlier this week wrote to Post Office Ltd Chief Executive Paula Vennells calling on the Post Office to do more to secure a permanent base, with longer opening hours.

Colin Smyth said, “The confirmation that the Post Office will close on 13 November is yet another blow to local services in Langholm. The response from Post Office Ltd of a mobile service less than a day and half a week is just not good enough. I have already written to Post Office Ltd Chief Executive Paula Vennells calling for a far more proactive approach form the company to work with the community to secure a long term solution with far better opening hours”.

“The Government owned Post Office Ltd approach of tucking a Post office into the back of shops simply doesn’t work in every community yet the company are obsessed by such a model which just hasn’t worked in Langholm”. 

“One of the biggest reasons for Post Office closures is the fact Post Office Ltd are continually cutting the commission they pay to those running the branches. This makes them financially unviable and the Government are just turning a blind eye to the demise of branches which are closing all over the country at an alarming rate. The poor levels of commission make finding people to run Post Offices almost impossible in our communities and its local businesses and the public who rely on the Post Office who are losing out”

Local MSP Joins Shadow Cabinet

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has been appointed as Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity in Scottish Labour Leader Richard Leonard’s recent reshuffle.

The move means the local Labour MSP has had infrastructure- which includes growth deals such as the Borderlands and Ayrshire Growth Deals as well as Town Centre regeneration- added to his existing Labour Spokesperson responsibilities for Transport and Connectivity.

He will continue to be Labour’s spokesperson on issues relating to the new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency. Legislation for the new agency is due to be published in the next few weeks and will then go before the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy Committee- where Colin is the only member representing the South of Scotland.

Colin Smyth said, “I am delighted to have infrastructure added to my existing spokesperson responsibilities for Transport and Connectivity. This means leading for Labour on all issues relating to growth deals, which is massively important for this area and continuing to be a spokesperson for the party in Parliament on plans for the new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency. Whether it is the need to fight for more investment in road, rail, buses and active travel, better broadband and mobile connectivity and support for the local economy, the issues in my role are the issues constituents locally raise on a daily basis, so I fully intend to use my new post to fight for the South of Scotland”.