16/02/2012 - EU Fruit and Vegetable Aid Scheme: Scottish Ministers' decision overturned
The Scottish Land Court, chaired by Lord McGhie, has handed down a judgment overturning a decision by the Scottish Ministers to withdraw recognition and funding under the EU Fruit and Vegetable Aid Scheme.
The appeal was brought by Angus Growers Limited, an Arbroath based Producer Organisation of 19 soft fruit growers, which supplies strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries to supermarkets. It uses EU funding under the Aid Scheme to invest in environmentally sound production techniques, plan production to meet demand, optimise production costs and market fruit.
The Fruit and Vegetable Aid Scheme is administered by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), which does so north of the border on behalf of the Scottish Ministers. The RPA had alleged a number of breaches by Angus Growers of the EU Regulations governing the scheme. Following a five day appeal hearing in Edinburgh, the Court found there had been no substantial breaches of the Regulations and that Angus Growers had sought at every stage to comply with the advice given by the RPA. There was therefore no valid basis upon which recognition and funding could be withdrawn.
The judgment contains the fullest consideration so far by a UK court of the interpretation and application of the EU Regulations governing this Aid Scheme. It is likely to be of considerable wider significance in light of the RPA's ongoing review of the eligibility for recognition and funding of a large proportion of other UK Producer Organisations operating under this Aid Scheme.