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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 May 2007, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Key farm income decision unveiled
Tractor in a field
The Scottish government announced further funding
Scotland's farmers are to lose some of their subsidies following a government decision - but not by as much as they had first feared.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead set the rate at which cash will be diverted to a general fund at 5%, rising to 9% by 2010.

Some farmers feared the rate announced in parliament may have been up to 20%.

However, Labour and the Lib Dems criticised the government for not allowing MSPs to vote on the plan.

Mr Lochhead also announced an extra 70m for the farm support programme over the next seven years.

He set out a further 10m initiative to attract new blood into the farming industry.

The SNP has the cheek to call itself consensual, by giving us this detailed document this morning and bringing it to parliament
Rhona Brankin
Labour rural affairs spokeswoman

Under EU agricultural reforms, aid is paid in the form of a single payment to each farm, amounting to a total of 400m a year, rather than the previous array of subsidies.

Farmers had called for the rate to be kept to the minimum of 5%, claiming some farms may go out of business otherwise, but supporters argue that the rural economy needs funds for forestry, environmental and community projects.

Mr Lochhead said: "What we now have is the largest investment programme in history for rural Scotland which will benefit everyone.

"This will ensure the programme will increase competitiveness in agriculture and forestry, enhance the environment and support rural communities."

Labour MSP Rhona Brankin, a former environment minister, voiced anger that MSPs would not have the opportunity to vote on the measures in parliament.

"The SNP has the cheek to call itself consensual, by giving us this detailed document this morning and bringing it to parliament," she said.

"If we had done the same to the SNP and other opposition parties, you would have hung us from the rooftops. It's absolute arrant hypocrisy."

Subject debate

Tory rural affairs spokesman John Scott acknowledged the need for a thriving countryside.

However, he added: "A thriving countryside will only be achieved if farmers and farm managers are able to farm and make a living at the same time as delivering environmental enhancement.

"If it comes to a choice between putting food on the table for the family or creating a water margin then we all know what that choice must be. And that is the reality that farmers are contemplating today.

Lib Dem rural affairs spokesman Mike Rumbles claimed it was clear that Mr Lochhead had not met the objectives of very many environmental organisations with the announcement.

He also accused the secretary of being "feart" by holding a subject debate and not giving MSPs the chance to vote on the plans.

"He has ignored the advice given by many in the industry to leave the rate alone, and I am disappointed he so obviously failed to persuade his cabinet colleagues to come up with the necessary funding to meet our environmental objectives," said Mr Rumbles.

Farming subsidies link to be cut
12 Feb 04 |  Scotland
Farm reform 'good for Scotland'
26 Jun 03 |  Scotland
Farmers' fears over EU subsidies
10 Jul 02 |  Scotland
Farming 'disaster' warning
14 Feb 01 |  Scotland


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