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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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Bedroom Tax Undermining Homelessness Efforts This Festive Season

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

REPORTS COMES AT END OF WESTMINSTER’S “YEAR OF SHAME”

Local MP Eilidh Whiteford has condemned Westminster’s “year of shame” on the bedroom tax, and once again pledged that the hated tax would be scrapped in an independent Scotland.

In total over 82,000 households are estimated in Scotland to be affected by the tax, including 63,500 households with a disabled adult, and 15,000 households with children.

The Scottish Affairs Committee has belatedly begun to wake up to the damage the Bedroom Tax is having on vulnerable people in Scotland, with its report published this month calling for the tax to be scrapped. The committee was warned that the bedroom tax risked "fundamentally undermining" Scotland's progressive commitment to reducing homelessness and ensuring everyone has the right to a permanent home.

Policy manager at the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations David Ogilvie said the Scottish Parliament could be justifiably proud of the country’s homelessness commitment, but said: "The ability to achieve its own targets is being fundamentally undermined by this (bedroom tax) policy." He added that homeless people could be left in temporary accommodation for far longer periods of time as people affected by the bedroom tax are moved into the few smaller properties available.

However, these criticisms come too late – given that 47 Labour MPs failed to turn up to Labour’s own debate to scrap the tax, in a vote which was lost by 26 votes. Among them were 10 Scottish Labour MPs – including Deputy Leader Anas Sarwar, who had previously demanded Nicola Sturgeon sign a bill to scrap the tax.

More than 30 Lib Dem MPs voted to uphold the government's hated Bedroom Tax - despite their own party members having condemned the policy at their party conference.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“There are many hundreds of households in the North-east alone who are suffering financial difficulties as a result of the Bedroom Tax with many of those affected being low earners, single women tenants and the disabled. The SNP has repeatedly opposed the Bedroom Tax at Westminster, including in the ridiculous situation where a Labour opposition debate was lost by only 26 votes and a staggering 47 Labour MPs failed to turn up, including 10 from Scotland!

“The people who are being faced with problems as a result of the Bedroom Tax are the very people who need support to bring up children, to supplement a low wage or who simply cannot work due to significant ill health or disability. In a caring society this is unacceptable.

"The Bedroom Tax is inherently unfair. Locally, it is clearly shown by local authorities that they do not have any significant number of houses for people to downsize to, which makes the aim of policy impossible, even if that aim was right in the first place.

“One of the most significant gains of independence is that Scotland will have full control over its welfare system. That means only with a Yes vote will we finally be able to get rid of the unjust bedroom tax and have a welfare state that reflects the views and votes of the people of Scotland."

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UK Government Must End Discrimination Against Off-Grid Energy Customers

Monday, 30 December 2013

In the final week of parliament before Christmas the SNP has again raised the issue of discrimination against ‘off-grid’ energy customers.

Local MP Eilidh Whiteford says this is of significant importance for energy consumers in the North-east with thousands reliant on ‘off-grid’ energy such as tanker delivered oil and gas.

The Scottish National Party have called on the Westminster Government to end the discrimination against Off Gas Grid consumers in the operation of the Energy Company Obligation schemes. These schemes oblige energy companies to support customers to become more energy efficient by funding energy efficiency improvements worth around 1.3 billion pounds each year. However off-grid customers, who are off-grid generally through no choice of their own, are not always eligible.

Commenting after the SNP raised the issue in Scottish Questions Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“Rural consumers, which include thousands in the North-east, are so often forgotten in arguments over energy prices. The Energy Company Obligation is supposed to be technology neutral, but the major energy companies will not include LPG or Home Fuel Oil boilers within their schemes. This is surely discriminatory.”

In his response Scotland Office Minister David Mundell said that his department were considering a Ministerial Round Table to discuss off gas grid issues, but Dr Whiteford says this is not enough:

“There is already a ministerial round table with the Department for Energy and Climate Change, the Department of Work and Pensions and others. The SNP has attended their meetings and raised this issue, amongst others, but no action has been taken by government.

“The situation is getting worse since as part of their amendments to the ECO the Westminster government are reducing the obligation to help hard to heat homes, the very homes in rural areas which tend also to be off the gas grid.

“The time for talking is over, the UK government need to take urgent action and insist that the major energy companies truly make the ECO schemes technology neutral and allow consideration of replacement LPG and Home Fuel Oil boilers.”

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Westminster Marriage Tax Break Short-Changing Vunerable Women

Friday, 27 December 2013


PLEDGE TO INTRODUCE FAIRER MODEL IN INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND

The Scottish National Party has criticised the UK Government’s plans for marriage tax breaks which would see men make up 85% of those benefitting from the £700 million pot of cash - and leave bereaved and abused women out in the cold.

An analysis has found that only 15% of the people benefitting directly from the £200 a year bonus announced in Westminster’s Autumn Statement earlier this month would be women. Under the policy, which comes into force in 2015, the lower-earning partner will be able to transfer up to £1,000 of their unused tax allowance to the other, but the scheme will overwhelmingly benefit men as they are more likely to be the higher earner.

Commenting, SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:

“Quite simply, the UK government marriage tax break is short-changing women.

“The policy reinforces other measures that discourage ‘dual earning’ couples, by making those who benefit lose if their partner takes a job for more than a few hours a week. The Women’s Budget Group has recognised that it will dissuade women from going back to work because the husband could lose their allowance if his wife gets a part-time or low-paid job that takes them over the earnings threshold.

“A woman who loses her husband through bereavement or is forced to leave the family home because of domestic violence also loses out.

“UK government benefit cuts already mean that many women are struggling financially, and the £700 million price tag could be better spent elsewhere.

“Even the Institute of Fiscal Studies has recognised that the Westminster policy is symbolic and would be of little benefit.

“Westminster’s tax-breaks which only benefit the traditional nuclear family shows how out of touch the UK Government is.

“As outlined in Scotland’s Future, with independence an SNP government would scrap marriage tax breaks – our priority is to help families with children by greatly expanding childcare provision.”

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Concern Over Soaring Cost of Stamps as Privatisation Threatens Greater Price Rises

Monday, 23 December 2013


CALL FOR FREEZE IN STAMP PRICES

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford is backing calls for Royal Mail to deliver a freeze on the price of stamps.

Stamps have increased in price closely in line with inflation over the past 30 years but rocketed in 2012. With Royal Mail now privatised the fear is that the price of stamps will continue to soar.

Now, as Santa Claus finalises his ‘naughty and nice’ lists, the SNP’s Postal Affairs spokesperson Mike Weir has called for Royal Mail to freeze the price of a stamp and give assurances that the sell-off will not lead to further price hikes.

Westminster’s approach to the Royal Mail contrasts with that of the Isle of Man, where the post office remains in public hands and it is cheaper to send a letter from the island to anywhere on the UK mainland than it is to send one between Scotland and England.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“Our postal services are far too important to simply be sold off on the cheap in the way Westminster has done.

“What we now need from the privatised service is an assurance that the price of a letter will not increase before Scotland becomes independent.

“It is cheaper to send a letter through the Isle of Man’s publicly owned postal service to the mainland than it is to send one from Scotland to England – and the fear must be that privatisation will only make this worse.

"It is clear that the only way for Scotland to have the postal service it wants and deserves is with a Yes vote next year.

"The SNP have pledged to act to maintain a universal six-day a week postal service in an independent Scotland and bring the Royal Mail back into public ownership where it belongs.”

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Westminster Holds 'Hunger Debate'

Wednesday, 18 December 2013


23,000 SCOTS –INCLUDING 7,000 CHILDREN– RECEIVING EMERGENCY FOOD AID

The UK Parliament will today (Wednesday) debate the rise of hunger and use of food banks in the UK, following a successful online campaign.

The petition on change.org which reached over 140 000 signatures, calls for parliament to debate the causes of UK hunger- ‘and to ask why, in modern Britain, food bank use is escalating so rapidly.’

The number of people relying on food banks to survive in the UK has tripled over the last year, with more than 23,000 Scots – including 7000 children – receiving emergency aid from a Trussell Trust food bank. Child Poverty Action Group have said the recent Autumn Statement ‘creates a new income rationing system for children, working families and disabled people through a national cap on their basic support’ and ‘once again it’s the poorest who are being asked to pay down the lion’s share of deficit reduction.’

Commenting ahead of the debate, Scottish National Party Westminster spokesperson for Work and Pensions Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:

“The UK government needs to wake up to this crisis.

“Danny Alexander and Alistair Carmichael have been happy to have themselves photographed smiling at the opening of local food banks, so at least now they will have to come and explain to Parliament why their policies are causing a surge in their use.

“The figures produced by the Trussell Trust, which runs 400 food banks across the UK, are alarming. The Trust have said a third of those being helped were children, and the problem was so severe that some people using food banks have started to hand back items that need cooking, as they cannot afford to use the energy. The Red Cross have also been helping with food aid in the UK - for the first time since the Second World War.

“Child Poverty Action Group have recognised that the cumulative effect of the UK government’s spending decisions are highly regressive, and are hitting the poorest, hardest.

“Meanwhile Westminster has been shunning responsibility. Conservative minister Lord Freud provoked outrage in July when he questioned whether there were "causal connections" between the rise of food banks and government austerity policies. In September Education Secretary Michael Gove was accused of being "out of touch" when he appeared to suggest that families using food banks were responsible for their own predicament.

“New Scottish Secretary of State Alistair Carmichael couldn’t even tell the Scottish Parliament’s Health Committee last week why so many children were being pushed into poverty as a result of his coalition’s cuts.

"While the UK government continues down this road, making the poor poorer, and the anti-independence No campaign tries to tell the people of Scotland that this is as good as it gets, more than ever it is clear that only a Yes vote next September can make Scotland a fairer country to live, work and raise a family."

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'Farming for YES' Takes to the Road in Turriff and New Deer

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Farmers and those involved in the agriculture industry got the opportunity to have their questions on what Independence will mean for the sector at special ‘Question Time’ events held in Turriff and New Deer.

 (l to r): Eilidh Whiteford MP;
meeting chairman and local farmer Cameron Ewen;
Alyn Smith MEP
Euro-MP Alyn Smith, a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development Committee and local MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford, who is also the SNP’s Agriculture spokesperson at Westminster held the special meetings to explain how Independence will mean a better deal for Scotland’s farmers and answer questions.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“I was delighted with both events and we had a range of questions from those attending on subjects from the CAP, to support for new entrants, to the Aberdeen bypass.

“I was particularly pleased to welcome Alyn Smith back to Buchan. Alyn is widely-acknowledged as Scottish farming’s voice in Europe and has been recognised for his work with the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Scottish Agriculture’ award from a national farming magazine.

“Scotland’s farmers know more than most how the UK’s failures to take the correct policy decisions for Scottish farming, and their failure to prioritise Scottish farming in the European Union, have undermined Scottish agriculture. Independence means the most important decisions about rural Scotland will be taken by the people who care most about Scotland, that is by the people who live here.”

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YES Vote Needed to Ensure Women are Paid Fairly - Whiteford

Monday, 16 December 2013

Commenting on reports indicating the gender pay gap has widened this year, local MP and SNP Work & Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford has said that the Scottish Government needs independence to take steps to ensure women are paid fairly.

An Office for National Statistics report found the gender pay gap had widened this year from 9.5 per cent to 10 per cent for full-time workers. The gap is much wider for part-time workers, which rose from 19.6 to 19.7 per cent.

Two thirds of people earning the minimum wage or less are women, and women are much more likely to work part-time. The Scottish Government has pledged that with independence, it will establish a Fair Work Commission which will establish a minimum wage in line with inflation, in addition to free childcare which will enable more women to work.

Commenting, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“It is shocking that the gender pay gap has widened this year, and more women are earning less than they deserve.

“The minimum wage has failed to rise in real terms for the 70,000 people in Scotland who receive it for almost a decade. Had the policy pledged been in place for the last five years it would have seen the lowest paid people in Scotland benefit to the tune of £675- the majority of them being women.

“Women also struggle to return to work after having children due to the cost of childcare. The Scottish Government’s plan to provide thirty hours of childcare per week in term time for all three and four-year-olds, as well as vulnerable two-year-olds, will help women who want to work go back to work. This will help close the gender pay gap and increase tax revenues- which in turn will be used by the Scottish Government to pay for the childcare. This policy isn't affordable if we remain part of the union.

“Without the benefits of independence, there is little the Scottish Government can do to mitigate the problem and more women continue to be underpaid. Women also struggle more to balance family budgets and keep up with the rising cost of living as they have been hardest hit by the UK government’s cuts to public sector workers pay and benefits. Women have the most to gain from independence.”

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Whiteford Seeks Commitment from UK Fisheries Minister on Days at Sea

The annual fisheries debate in the House of Commons has highlighted some of the issues for Scottish Fishing communities. Banff & Buchan MP and SNP Westminster fisheries spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford questioned the Minister seeking a commitment he will not allow days at sea to be reduced further.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

“Once again the big issue will be cod quotas and the flaws in the Cod Recovery Plan (CRP). We know that cod stocks are moving in the right direction, and in fact cod mortality is now at its lowest level since 1963, when assessments started. Fishermen and scientists alike are telling us that cod is more abundant than it has been for 50 years. However, the CRP threatens to derail the progress made in recent years.

“Last year, common sense prevailed and there was recognition that rigid adherence to the plan would be counter-productive. The same applies this year. If the proposed 9% quota cut goes ahead, it will inevitably lead to an increase in discards, which is exactly what we are trying to prevent. In my view, we need to continue following the science—and the science indicates that a small increase in the allowable catch for North sea cod will enable the stock to keep growing and keep our long-term outcome of a sustainable fishery on track. I hope the Westminster Government will promote that objective in the forthcoming talks, and I seek their assurance on that.

“I also sought a commitment from the Minister that he will not let days at sea be reduced any further, and that he will support an effort to freeze this at 2012-13 levels. Automatic reductions in days at sea will not give the fleet enough time to catch its quota, and that can only increase risk to our fishermen.

“A great deal rides on the forthcoming negotiations. As everyone else looks forward to winding down for Christmas, December is a particularly tense and anxious time of year for fishing communities and everyone who works in the fishing industry.”

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SNP MPs Look Ahead to Fish Quota Talks Next Week

Friday, 13 December 2013


FISHING DEBATE AT WESTMINSTER HIGHLIGHTS PROBLEMS FOR INDUSTRY

This week’s debate in the House of Commons on the Fishing industry, and the key Fishing quota talks due to take place in Brussels next week, have highlighted some of the issues for Scottish Fishing communities. Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, SNP Fisheries spokesperson who questioned the Westminster Fisheries Minister for an update in reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and forthcoming talks commented:

“Once again the big issue will be cod quotas and the flaws in the cod recovery plan (CRP). We know that cod stocks are moving in the right direction, and in fact cod mortality is now at its lowest level since 1963, when assessments started. Fishermen and scientists alike are telling us that cod is more abundant than it has been for 50 years. However, the CRP threatens to derail the progress made in recent years. Last year, common sense prevailed and there was recognition that rigid adherence to the plan would be counter-productive. The same applies this year. If the proposed 9% quota cut goes ahead, it will inevitably lead to an increase in discards, which is exactly what we are trying to prevent. In my view, we need to continue following the science—and the science indicates that a small increase in the allowable catch for North sea cod will enable the stock to keep growing and keep our long-term outcome of a sustainable fishery on track. I hope the Westminster Government will promote that objective in the forthcoming talks, and I seek their assurance on that.

“I also seek a commitment from the Minister that he will not let days at sea be reduced any further, and that he will support an effort to freeze this at 2012-13 levels. Automatic reductions in days at sea will not give the fleet enough time to catch its quota, and that can only increase risk to our fishermen.

“A great deal rides on the forthcoming negotiations. As everyone else looks forward to winding down for Christmas, December is a particularly tense and anxious time of year for fishing communities and everyone who works in the fishing industry."

Angus MacNeil MP has also raised the issue of the dumping of Spurdog in large quantities this Autumn . Mr MacNeil SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar said:

"It is unfortunate that a situation has arisen where huge numbers of migratory Spurdog - that are not targeted in the fishery or wanted in the fishermen’s nets - end up being caught inadvertently and that as they have no quota to land them, they are dumped.

“This is because of an understandable concern of protecting the species but has led to unforeseen outcomes, with fish being wasted and in other areas fish being targeted to answer the world demand for those same species. I welcome that the owners of quota will be published in a register next week as promised by the Westminster Fisheries minister, as there is a strong belief in the fishing industry that people who own fishing quota should be active in the industry and not other diverse unrelated enterprises.”

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MP Praises Turriff Posties

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has praised postal workers after visiting the Royal Mail’s Delivery Centre in Turriff.

Eilidh was shown round the office by local Delivery Office Manager, Murdo Watson, and was introduced to the postmen and women who are working hard sorting and delivering cards and parcels in the Turriff area in the run-up to Christmas.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

“It was great to meet the dedicated, hard-working Royal Mail postmen and women at Turriff delivery office and to see first-hand just how much effort they put into delivering for people at this time of year.

“Postmen and women do such an important job at this time of year. I would like to thank them for their efforts and wish them all the best over the busy festive period.

“At Christmas, more than any time of year, it becomes apparent just how critical the Royal Mail is. We rely on our local posties to receive and send our cards and presents. In a rural area like Banff and Buchan, those same posties are a veritable lifeline.

“I will continue to speak out in favour of a publically owned, universal delivery service.”

Murdo Watson, Royal Mail Delivery Office Manager at Turriff, said:

“Christmas is the busiest time of year for Royal Mail. Our people pull out all the stops throughout the year to ensure mail is delivered quickly, but even more so over the busy festive period. We are grateful that Eilidh came along to see the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

“Our people do a fantastic job at this time of year to ensure that friends and families stay in touch through their Christmas greetings and gifts. We’d like to remind our customers to post early so that friends and family have longer to enjoy their Christmas greetings!”

The recommended last posting dates for mail are:
  • Friday 20 December for 1st Class items
  • Wednesday 18 December for 2nd Class items
  • Monday 23 December for Special Delivery items
The remaining recommended International posting dates for 2013 are:
  • Monday 9 December for airmail to Cyprus and Eastern Europe
  • Tuesday 10 December for airmail to Canada, France, Greece, Poland
  • Friday 13 December for airmail to USA
  • Saturday 14 December for airmail items to Western Europe (excluding France, Greece, Poland)

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Street Pastors Launch Welcomed by Local MP

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Banff & Buchan SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed the launch at the weekend of the Peterhead ‘Street Pastors’.

The MP attended the launch of the new service on Saturday night where the 15 volunteers had their Commissioning Service and will be a regular sight in and around Peterhead. Street Pastors were pioneered in London in 2003 and have gone from strength to strength with around 250 teams across the United Kingdom.

The Street Pastors in Peterhead intend to work every Saturday night from 10.00pm to 4.00am and describe themselves as “a caring heart, a listening ear and a helping hand”.

After their Commissioning Service on Saturday, the Street Pastors took to the pavements of Peterhead and were positively received.

Commenting, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“This initiative is backed by Police Scotland, the Buchan Community Safety Group and the Peterhead councillors and has been demonstrated where it operates elsewhere to contribute effectively to the safety of those using our town centres on Saturday nights.

“I congratulate organiser Frances Scott and her team on getting to this stage. Their enthusiasm for this new project was clearly evident to all who attended Saturday night’s launch and I wish them every success as they move forward with this initiative.”

Sergeant Claire Smith of the Buchan Community Policing Team said:

"It is great to have the Street Pastors joining us in Peterhead. I know they are a great success in Aberdeen, where they started in 2007.

“As police officers we are aware that sometimes the law enforcement approach is not always the best. A support approach can assist greatly with the long term aim to remove the causation factors of anti-social behaviour and incidents of disorder, which can be seen more than often outside and sometimes in licensed premises during a weekend."

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Scotland's Future on Agenda for Fyvie Farmers

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Alex Salmond joined 30 farmers from his constituency last night (Monday 2 December) as a special guest at this month’s Fyvie Farmers’ Discussion Group.

Mr Salmond was invited to speak at the Vale Hotel meeting about his life in politics and the opportunities for Scotland’s farming sector in voting for independence next September. A question and answer session followed, with much interest surrounding the recently published White Paper: Scotland’s Future. The group also had particular questions about the challenges and opportunities facing the farming industry of the North East.

Mr Salmond commented:

“I was delighted to be invited to speak to the Fyvie Farmers last night at the Vale Hotel.

“The group – who meet regularly for discussions on a range of subjects – made me feel very welcome indeed. There were some great questions on farming issues, such as CAP funding, and the opportunities for Scottish farming and our country more widely following a vote for independence.”

Monday night’s meeting begins a week of engagement between SNP elected members and North East rural communities. Farmers and those involved or interested in agricultural industries will have the opportunity to put their questions on farming and independence to MEP Alyn Smith and Banff and Buchan MP, Dr Eilidh Whiteford, at events later this week.

The “Question Time” discussions will be held on Friday 6 December in Buckley’s at Deveron Country House Turriff at 7pm and at 10am on Saturday 7 December in the Public Hall, New Deer. Alyn Smith is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee and Dr Whiteford is the SNP’s agriculture spokesperson at Westminster.

Commenting in advance of the Q&A events, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“I’m very pleased to welcome Alyn Smith to Buchan. Alyn is widely-acknowledged as Scottish farming’s voice in Europe and has been recognised for his work with the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Scottish Agriculture’ award from a national farming magazine.

“It’s also a very timely event having just recently met with the NFUS both locally and in Westminster on the issue of CAP convergence payments for Scottish farmers which the UK Government has shamefully appropriated and spread around the entire UK instead of passing it on to the Scottish industry, which was the intended purpose of the money.”

Alyn Smith MEP added:

“I’m delighted to be coming to Buchan so soon after the launch of the Independence White Paper to help explain how Scotland having control of its own affairs will benefit Scottish farming and I look forward to meeting with local farmers.”

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Local MP Meets with NFUS

Monday, 2 December 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford met with regional officials from the NFUS at Thainstone to discuss current issues. The meeting was part of a series of regular dialogue between elected representatives and NFUS members.

Speaking after the meeting at Thainstone, Eilidh said:

“This was a constructive meeting at which a wide range of issues of concern to local NFUS members were raised.

“I was keen to get feedback from NFUS members following my debate in the House of Commons last Tuesday on the CAP convergence uplift, and I urged them to continue to press the UK Government for a fair settlement.

"By 2019 Scotland will have the lowest per hectare rates of Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 funding anywhere in the EU, which is a rotten deal by any standards - the convergence uplift is supposed to mitigate Scotland's low payment rate, and it's vital it's used for its intended purpose.

"Members also raised key issues relating to the inter-linked challenges facing the livestock and processing sectors, and it's clear to me that addressing these will require the kind of strategic investment that rural development funding is designed to deliver. That's why it's so disappointing that Scotland is being so badly short-changed compared our neighbours and competitors in other parts of the UK and EU."

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