Clarification on timetable to return deferred funding to rural portfolio sought.
NFU Scotland has written to Scotland’s newly appointed Deputy First Minister and Finance Secretary, Shona Robison MSP, seeking confirmation that £33 million deferred from the agricultural budget last year will be returned.
In the Scottish Government’s Emergency Budget Review (EBR) in 2022 to support people and businesses through the unprecedented cost crisis, £33 million of funding awarded to Scotland as part of the 2019 Bew Review into the fair allocation of agricultural support in the UK was deferred.
The then Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Economy, John Swinney MSP, publicly confirmed to Scottish Parliament in his EBR statement that the deferred budget of £33 million would be returned to the sector in future years, ensuring this money is ultimately used to deliver on Scotland’s rural priorities.
Future budgets are set through the annual parliamentary Budget Bill process and the appropriate profile for returning this funding will be considered as part of the 2024-25 process. In response to a Parliamentary Question last month, Deputy First Minister and Finance Secretary Shona Robison MSP confirmed that the money will be used to invest in Scotland’s rural priorities.
The Union has requested to meet with the Deputy First Minister and her team to discuss the rural affairs budget and how Scotland’s farmers and crofters continue to use that public support to deliver on food security, reducing emissions, nature restoration, supporting rural communities and growing the rural economy.
Commenting on the letter to the Deputy First Minister, NFU Scotland President Martin Kennedy said: “It is a critical and decisive time for Scotland’s farmers and crofters. Agricultural policy in both Scotland and the rest of the UK is currently undergoing significant change. That debate is being undertaken against the backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis, and there are clearly critical issues around funding going forward.
“When food security and future production are such key issues for the nation, this is causing great concern for our sector. In our Intentions Survey conducted in January, almost two-thirds of farmers and crofters identified uncertainty around future agricultural policy and funding as the most significant threat to their businesses.
“Funding from HM Treasury for the sector is only committed until the end of this UK parliament so clarity from the Scottish Government on future support, including the return of the Bew funding, would provide welcome reassurance.
“Without government investment, many farmers and crofters in Scotland would find it impossible to generate sufficient funds to reinvest and maintain their competitiveness and that has implications for consumers, food production and rural communities.
“It would also significantly undermine Scotland’s aspirations to grow our iconic food and drinks sector, as the major plank of green economic growth, whilst sustainably tackling climate change, nature restoration and rural depopulation.
“At NFU Scotland, we want to secure the future of farming and crofting, not just for our members but the thousands of jobs and businesses, located within rural communities across Scotland, which are supported by our sector. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss with the Deputy First Minister how we believe Scottish Government can support that ambition.”