THE Langwell Estate near Ullapool in the Scottish Highlands offers grouse shooting, deer stalking and other opportunities to blow away wildlife. Its lodge rents for £4,250 per week in high season. In 2012, the estate received about £250,000 (€300,408) in EU agricultural subsidies. The estate’s owner, as Eye readers may recall, is Britain’s best-paid editor, Paul Dacre of… the not-very-EU-friendly Daily Mail!
The payments to Dacre’s estate were uncovered by farmsubsidy.org, which campaigns for transparency in EU agricultural payments. An increasingly large share is paid out not for agricultural production, but to landowners who “improve the environment” or “diversify the rural economy” by overseeing activities such as grouse shooting.
Handouts for the chairman, too
Farmsubsidy.org suffered a setback in 2010 when the EU Court of Justice ruled that transparency of rural payments did not trump the privacy rights of farmers. This led many countries to take their payment datasets offline so personal data could be redacted. Some countries still haven’t put the data back again, part of “a backlash against open government”, according to farmsubsidy.org. Countries are supposed to publish the 2013 figures in April – when we will find out if the Dacre family’s Langwell Estate continues to enjoy the EU’s largesse.
Meanwhile Dacre’s boss, Daily Mail and General Trust’s “non-domicile” chairman Lord Rothermere, has also been taking handouts. Rural Payments Agency figures show that for 2004/05 the Rothermere estate, “T/A [trading as] Ferne Park Estate”, received £15,353 under the Common Agricultural Policy. Coincidentally, Rothermere claims domicile (ie long-term allegiance) to France – the biggest CAP supporter of all.