Damning European Court of Auditors Report

The European Court of Auditors has just published a damning report on the Single Payment Scheme which was introduced as part of the 2003 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (ECA Press Release here & BBC report here.). As I have highlighted in Chapter 18 of the Poor Had No Lawyers and written about in these posts, the vast bulk of the money handed out in public subsidy to farmers and landowners goes to a tiny elite. Indeed, across the EU, 75% of the public subsidy goes to a mere 16% of farmers (Table 2 in the report).

In Scotland, from 2000 to 2009, the top 50 recipients of agricultural subsidy received £168 million – an average of over £3.3 million in subsidy. These include the Earl of Seafield, Earl of Moray, Duke of Roxburghe and the Duke of Buccleuch. The lengths to which individuals will go to profit from the scam is illustrated by the affairs of Mr Stephen Strathdee and his company, Strathdee Properties Ltd.

Para 65 and Box 7 highlights the abuses of the system.

“Almost all the additional land that has been declared in Scotland for SPS since 2007 (ca. 58 000 ha) was rough grazing land (ca. 50 000 ha), even though the number of sheep in Scotland has been declining for a number of years.” (Box 7, pg. 38)

The report is a damning assessment of the way in which the SFP scheme has been administered in Scotland over the past 7 years. Despite this, the Brian Pack Review (pg.69) commissioned by the Scottish Government recommends that there be NO cap on the amount of subsidy any individual receives.

Unfortunately, it is now difficult to get hold of any of the data that shows what has been going on since the Scottish Government has removed it all from their website but I have republished it here.

The big test for the Scottish Government is whether they are going to continue supporting the big farmers and landowners or adopt a more holistic and fair system that delivers greater public benefits to all of rural Scotland.

EDIT 2029hrs. I forgot one of the best bits. After the auditors in para. 22 define what a “holding” is and what constitutes “agricultural activity”, they go on to say in para 23.

“The legal framework therefore does not require beneficiaries:

(a) to own land or any other means of agricultural production,
(b)to be a producer of agricultural goods; and
(c)to earn one’s income from the selling of the product of one’s agricultural activity on a market.”