Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur has joined growing calls for the Scottish Government to change course on agriculture policy, demanding funds removed from the agriculture budget be restored and greater clarity provided over future support and regulation.
Mr McArthur repeated his calls ahead of attending NFU Scotland’s annual conference in Glasgow later today. The First Minister, Humza Yousaf is due to address the conference on Friday as anger mounts over a second year in which funds have been cut from the farming budget. In the most recent Scottish Government budget, spending on “Agricultural Support and Related” was reduced by £33m, leaving it nearly £50m less what it was two years ago. Money earmarked for agriculture has been diverted to plug gaps in other areas of government spending. While ministers have promised that the money will be returned, little clarity has been provided on when this will happen.
NFUS President, Martin Kennedy has said the Scottish Government’s decision to cut agriculture funding ‘beggars belief’, and has criticised what he calls ‘hollow promises’ from ministers to the sector.
Mr McArthur said:
“The agriculture sector is at the heart of our rural and island communities, but its needs are certainly not understood at the heart of this SNP-Green government.
“We have an agriculture bill that provides little certainty over how funding and regulation will be applied in future. At the same time, ministers are busy raiding agriculture funds to plug gaps in the country’s finances, which they have badly mismanaged over the years.
“The First Minister doesn’t have his problems to seek right now but if he can’t tell farmers this week when their money will be returned to the agriculture budget, disappearing WhatsApp messages may seem like the least of his worries.”