Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has today (Wednesday) sought assurances from the Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing over the future of the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS).
During a Ministerial Statement on annual payments to farmers and crofters, Mr McArthur highlighted that LFASS has provided much needed certainty and stability to farmers and crofters in remote rural and island areas. He went on to call for an assurance from the Cabinet Secretary that the scheme will continue in its current form and budget.
In response, Mr Ewing confirmed that the Scottish Government will maintain real levels of support under LFASS next year and, while he admitted that decisions still need to be made about the shape of farming support beyond that, he insisted there was broad agreement for a continuance of a scheme that serves the purpose of rural cohesion in the farming community.
Following the exchange, Mr McArthur commented:
“LFASS has provided essential income support to farmers and crofters based in more remote areas. It reflects the additional constraints faced by farm businesses in these communities and provides much needed financial stability.
“In the midst of a pandemic, with the UK’s impending departure from the EU, there is no lack of challenges facing the farming sector at the moment. At a time of such uncertainty, retaining the benefits that LFASS delivers would seem both sensible and desirable.
“The group established by the Minister to develop proposals for future farm support post-Brexit is due to report shortly. It is right that consideration is given to the way funding is allocated across the board.
“However, as Fergus Ewing rightly acknowledged, LFASS has shown itself to be particularly good at targeting support where it is most needed. Moreover, in helping sustain farming and crofting in some of our most fragile areas, it also plays a pivotal role in building community cohesion.
“These are ‘public goods’ we should value and protect and I am pleased that the Minister seems up for the fight in ensuring this happens”.