Scottish farmer farmers are getting their second and final instalment of convergence funding by the end of January.

Around 18,000 farmers will benefit from the support worth £71.8m.

This comes from the £160m package which the UK government awarded Scotland due to its low average payment per hectare.

The convergence fund will focus payments on hill and upland farmers, who have had their less favoured support payments slashed to 40% of the historic rate.

Rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing has committed to channel the convergence money to bring these payments back up to a 100% rate.

Positive response

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said: “The Scottish government has responded positively to NFU Scotland’s calls to fully make up the shortfall in LFASS payments for all those hit by the EU requirements that LFASS 2020 had to be paid out at 40% of the LFASS 2018 values.

“Changing the delivery criteria for that LFA uplift to ensure that there would effectively be no LFASS winners or losers this time around has been a clear goal of NFU Scotland and was championed by our LFA committee in its recently published policy document and thereafter.

The funding path chosen generates excessive and divisive redistribution

“That said, in using convergence funding borne out of direct support to bail out the shortfall in LFASS in this manner shortchanges the whole of Scottish agriculture again – this time leaving some £33m less for top-ups to Basic Payments for all.

“With almost £39m then left in the pot to go to the intended Basic Payments targets, it is also very disappointing and ill-judged that greater recognition has not been given to the value of region one land across every farm and croft.

"The funding path chosen generates excessive and divisive redistribution.

“Whether it’s prime agricultural land growing grain and finishing livestock or the inbye critical to hill farms and crofts, Scotland’s region one land is the engine house of each business and sector.

"For Scottish agriculture as a whole, it’s the land that largely generated Scotland’s direct support budget and it’s the land that does the heavy lifting today.

Three payment regions

“Internal convergence from 2015 to 2019, which saw the creation of just three payment regions, has flattened direct support and already moved funding towards regions two and three.

"When added to the delivery method chosen by Scottish government for this convergence funding, it fails to recognise or appreciate the economic value of our region one land proportionately compared to how the Scottish agriculture budget was earned.”

Croft viewpoint

However, the Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) acknowledges timely and fairer payments of the ‘convergence uplift’ and less favoured areas support, after a sustained campaign on behalf of crofters.

“The convergence uplift money was clearly intended for crofters and farmers on rough grazing,” said SCF chair Donald MacKinnon. “We have argued this point since the money came to Scotland and it is gratifying to see Scottish government has acknowledged this with a change in payment proportions in favour of those who ‘earned’ the uplift by historically receiving low agricultural support payments – those of us on the hill and moor.

“Support to the areas that face additional natural constraint is vital for crofters, so we welcome the fact that the payments are coming in good time, that the convergence balance has shifted and that the potential deficit in LFASS has been made up.

"These are all things the federation has been campaigning for on behalf of crofters.”

Mr MacKinnon added: “Now we need to see the support mechanisms for the constrained areas be redesigned to reflect the importance of high nature value (HNV) land management.

"Most of Scotland’s HNV regions are to be found where crofting and upland grazing take place, areas that provide public goods despite facing natural constraints.

"We want to see public money being used to pay for these public goods.”