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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-19149: Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland)

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Date lodged: 2 October 2018

To ask the Scottish Government whether it plans to continue the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme beyond 2019 and, if so, for what period, and whether grants under the scheme will be of similar financial value to those currently available to eligible farm businesses.

Answered by: Fergus Ewing 30 October 2018

LFASS is vital for our rural economy and remote communities throughout Scotland, providing support to over 11,000 farmers and crofters, which is why I have decided to continue with the scheme in 2019 even though the UK Government has stopped its support. With 85% of Scotland’s agricultural area classed as less favoured, clarity on future support for farmers and crofters is crucial to ensure the economic viability and sustainability of these remote areas.

As set out in the recent Stability and Simplicity Consultation, my priority in the short-term is to provide people in rural businesses with as much certainty as possible. I have taken this approach with LFASS and as soon as I could, in December, I announced that we will continue with a 100% LFASS payment for 2018. EU rules do not allow us to continue with LFASS unchanged from next year so, after considering all options, I announced in June that LFASS will continue next year, with the payments at the maximum that EU rules allow, which is 80% in 2019. This has given farming and crofting businesses advance notice to provide as much financial stability as possible during these uncertain times.

No decisions have been made regarding LFASS 2020, my officials are exploring all possible options to maintain vital support to the industry in 2020, including a series of meetings with key stakeholders to consider the options and impacts. However, as the UK Government is taking us out of the EU we don’t even know what rules will apply in 2020 and fundamentally we don’t know the details of any replacement funding from the UK Government.

It is vital that devolved agriculture powers are returned to Scotland so we have the ability to provide support tailored to Scotland’s unique needs and give much needed certainty.