Sandy Hay: Funding for the future of Scottish farming

'By investing now, farmers can make their businesses more resilient,' says Bank of Scotland's Sandy Hay. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
'By investing now, farmers can make their businesses more resilient,' says Bank of Scotland's Sandy Hay. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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The Royal Highland Show is one of those special events that can set Scottish pulses racing.

It is a wonderful showcase of our rural life and the world-class produce that Scotland is rightly famous for.

Sandy Hay: 'Farmers always have an eye on the future.' Picture: Alan Richardson

Sandy Hay: 'Farmers always have an eye on the future.' Picture: Alan Richardson

Given the political and economic uncertainty that has characterised the past couple of years, Scotland’s farming sector has proved remarkably resilient.

• READ MORE: Highland Show prepares to open under shadow of Brexit

The current value of sterling has made the price of our farmers’ produce more competitive overseas. It has, of course, also boosted the value of EU subsidies.

However, this has been countered to some extent by the increased cost of imported assets, particularly evident in farm machinery.

By investing now, farmers can make their businesses more resilient

Whilst it is difficult to predict the longer-term implications of leaving the EU, it is easy to imagine that the eventual withdrawal of Common Agricultural Policy payments will pose a challenge to the sector.

We know that farmers always have an eye on the future, and this will be prompting many to consider how they can make their businesses more resilient. Whether this is by driving efficiencies, by consolidation or by diversification.

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The Royal Highland Show takes place at a point in the year when farmers will be considering investing in new machinery or farm building improvements, while others mull expansion as more land comes onto the market.

Whatever the route taken, it requires investment. We’ve made £100 million of additional funding available to the agricultural sector over the next year.

Through this fund we can help our customers in a number of ways, not least in managing their cashflow with a range of financial solutions, for example we can provide asset finance to support the purchase of new machinery.

The scale of funding is an expression of our commitment to the sector and of our confidence in farmers to plan and manage their businesses through a complex period of change and uncertainty.

We believe good returns are achievable from efficient businesses in the agri-food sector, and we want to continue to help Scotland prosper through supporting more Scottish farmers in realising their long-term business ambitions.

That can mean support with succession planning, ensuring that family farms have stability going forward and that the next generation will have the opportunity to build a strong future.

No one can predict the future but by investing now, farmers can make their businesses more resilient against the challenges they could face in the longer term.

Sandy Hay is south and east Scotland area director, agriculture, for SME banking at Bank of Scotland

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