Scottish farmers are calling on the First Minister Humza Yousaf to return the remaining £46 million of funding to the Scottish agriculture budget when he speaks at the National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) Conference next week. The funding was deferred from the rural portfolio in 2022 and 2023, and only £15 million was returned in the 2024-25 budget.
Farmers feel betrayed by the SNP
The NFUS received a categorical assurance from deputy First Minister Shona Robison in June last year that the £33 million deferred from the agricultural budget in 2022 would be returned to the agricultural budget. However, instead of returning the money, the SNP government announced that another £28 million of uncommitted funding would be diverted from the rural sector, but promised to fully return the total amount without giving a timeline.
Farmers feel betrayed by the SNP’s broken promise and the lack of certainty for the future of the agricultural sector in Scotland. They are worried about the impact of the funding cuts on their businesses, the environment, and the food security of the country.
Scottish Conservatives urge Yousaf to honour the promise
The Scottish Conservatives have urged Yousaf to “stop using farmers as a scapegoat” and honour the SNP’s previous promise to return the £46 million to the rural sector. They have accused the SNP-Green government of focusing on the central belt and ignoring the needs of Scotland’s rural communities.
Rachael Hamilton MSP, the Scottish Conservative shadow rural affairs secretary, said: “The SNP’s silence on cuts to Scotland’s agriculture funding has been deafening but Humza Yousaf now has the chance to deliver the money that his government promised to farmers at the NFUS Conference next week.
“I’m deeply concerned at the uncertainty that our farming industry is facing under this Scottish Government after Mairi Gougeon’s announcement that just 25 per cent of the funding would be returned.
“Farming is central to Scotland’s domestic economy, and it is only right that those who work in our agricultural sector are appropriately supported, but at the moment, it’s clear they are not.
“Next week, Humza Yousaf must stop using farmers as a scapegoat and instead honour the SNP’s previous promise and guarantee the return of this vital funding or risk Scotland’s food security and the livelihoods of our farmers.”
David Duguid, the Conservative MP for Banff and Buchan, echoed Hamilton’s sentiments and said: “Our farmers, crofters, and agricultural workers are repeatedly let down by an SNP-Green Government that only focuses on the central belt and does not understand the needs of Scotland’s rural communities.”
Yousaf to address the NFUS Conference
Yousaf is expected to deliver a speech at the annual NFUS Conference in Glasgow on Friday, February 9, while SNP rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon will also be in attendance. The NFUS Conference is a key event for the farming sector in Scotland, where the challenges and opportunities facing the industry are discussed and debated.
The NFUS has said that it will continue to press the Scottish Government to return the full amount of funding to the rural budget, and to provide clarity and support for the future of Scottish agriculture.
Andrew McCornick, the NFUS president, said: “We are looking forward to hearing from the First Minister and the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs at our conference next week.
“We hope they will recognise the importance of the agricultural sector to Scotland’s economy, environment, and society, and the need to invest in its future.
“We will not give up on our campaign to secure the return of the £46 million of funding that was promised to us, and we will hold the Scottish Government to account for its decisions and actions.”