A six-year battle to win back the full £160 million of European “convergence” top-up funds owed to Scottish farmers has finally been won – but only if Boris Johnson is elected prime minister.
The Conservative Party leadership frontrunner has committed to transferring £160m to the Scottish Government in what would be the biggest injection of cash into Scottish farming in 20 years.
It is understood this money would not to be related to any extra support required for agriculture in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Former NFU Scotland president Jim Walker – who had business connections with Mr Johnson when he was London Mayor – claimed the credit for convincing the prospective prime minister to make the commitment.
Mr Walker is the Scottish Government’s representative on the Bew Review committee, set up in the wake of the controversial allocation of cash and which is due to report within weeks on how support funds should be allocated between the four nations once the UK leaves the EU.
Mr Walker said: “I know Boris and I know he can do a deal, so I explained why Scotland should have received the money in 2013 and how it was pulled from below our noses. It was an injustice that needed to be sorted.
“We’ve heard billions of pounds of support promised by both leadership candidates over the last few weeks and it’s unlikely it’ll all come to fruition, but this is the real thing.”
It is understood the £160m would not be clawed back from farmers elsewhere in the UK but be found from Chancellor Philip Hammond’s £26 billion so-called “fighting fund”.
Scottish Government rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said he would not rest “until we see the colour of their money” and vowed to press whoever becomes the next prime minister to fulfil Mr Johnson’s pledge.
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick welcomed the announcement and said the union had always argued that the convergence money deserved to be in Scotland and not distributed between the four nations.
He added: “I am delighted that Mr Johnson shares our opinion and I am hopeful that this means we are on our way to having this injustice corrected.”
However, Mr Walker disputed the union’s claim that it had continued to argue for the funds to be returned and said he had “stormed out of the meeting” when an NFUS representative recently gave “pathetic” evidence to the Bew committee.
“NFUS hasn’t lobbied Boris and they’ve been no help to me,” he said.