Government funding cuts to Scotland’s agriculture budget are a “major blow” to farmers and crofters who face unprecedented costs, NFU Scotland (NFUS) has said.
The Scottish government announced on Thursday 8 September that £33m would be removed from the agricultural budget this year.
The money will be deferred as part of ring-fenced funding for agriculture, to be returned in future years.
See also: Scots government sets out plans for future farm support
NFUS president Martin Kennedy said Scottish farmers and crofters were struggling with spiralling costs – prices for fuel have doubled, fertiliser has trebled and electricity has increased fivefold.
He added: “Farmers and crofters want to play their part in tackling the nation’s cost of living crisis. But at a time when the Scottish government should be looking to prioritise home food production in order to secure an affordable, domestic food supply, the headline that there is a cut in agricultural support risks eroding confidence, reducing production further and raising the cost of food.”
Although it appears the £33m will be returned to the sector in future years, Mr Kennedy questioned why the Scottish government had not already invested the funding in the sector “at a time when producers are already scaling back on production and livelihoods are at risk”.
The union will be writing to the Scottish finance secretary, Kate Forbes, to seek assurances that the money will be returned to the farming budget and used to invest in domestic food production.
BPS payments unaffected
The announcement has no implications for support payments, including Basic Payment Scheme cheques which are due to be rolled out later this month.
Addressing the Scottish parliament on Wednesday 7 September, deputy first minister John Swinney said the cuts were part of about £500m in savings identified by the Scottish government to tackle the “harsh reality” of the cost-of-living crisis.
Public sector pay rises were costing about £700m more than expected and ongoing support for Ukrainian refugees coming to Scotland required an additional £200m.
In addition, soaring inflation meant the original budget was worth about £1.7bn less than in December.