Richard Lochhead
Richard Lochhead says the British government does not give Scottish farmers a fair deal through the common agricultural policy Reuters

Westminster has negotiated Scottish farmers to the bottom of the pile when it comes to European subsidy and development payments, a leading Scottish minister has stated.

Richard Lochhead, the Scottish government's cabinet secretary for rural affairs and the environment, said he was unable to do more for farmers' budgets because of the way the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was implemented by Westminster.

"If Scotland had a half decent budget we would be able to do much, much more. Instead, the UK Government has negotiated Scotland to the very bottom of the European league tables for CAP payments which means we have much smaller budgets," he said.

Lochhead was announcing the proportion of farming budgets that would be transferred from direct payments to farmers, to rural development schemes.

He said the right balance would be a 9.5% transfer rate into rural developments in Scotland, and would apply to farm budgets from 2015-2020.

Lochhead said this would deliver a rural development budget of over £1.3bn ($2.1bn, €1.5bn) in the next seven years.

According to a Scottish government document, in 2011 just over £32bn ($52.3bn, €38.4bn) was produced in the rural regions of Scotland which represented approximately 30% of total output for the Scottish economy, excluding gas and oil.

If Scotland had been Independent during the most recent EU farming talks it would have qualified for an extra €1bn in direct payments and would have been able to negotiate millions more in rural development funding, Lochhead argued.

"We are still pushing the UK Government to pass on the full €223m convergence uplift that rightfully belongs to Scotland but it now appears there is no prospect of an extra penny being returned to Scotland in the next CAP whether or not they expect review ever actually happens.

"This is a huge sum of money that could be going direct to farmers or invested in priority rural development schemes as highlighted in the consultation responses," he said.

Lochhead has argued before that Scotland would get a better deal from the European Union on the CAP if it achieved independence in the September 2014 referedum.