Farming: The rural affairs budget is falling short claim Tories

While Scotland’s rural affairs budget might have escaped any major reductions in the Scottish Government’s spending review which was published earlier this week, the Scottish Conservatives have struck out, claiming that the announcement represents a ‘swingeing cut’ in real terms.

Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary Rachael Hamilton said that while the overall budget - which included farm support, rural services, marine, fisheries and island payments - rose slightly from £881 million to £885 million between 2022/23 and 2026/27, in real terms this represented a cut of over £75 million.

And she claimed that the SNP budget would also dramatically reduce funding for direct agricultural support, with this budget suffering a real-terms cut of over £17 million.

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“This spending review from the SNP Finance Secretary could not have been worse for our rural and islands communities,” said Hamilton.

“They are already being badly let down by the SNP-Green Government, yet Kate Forbes has just delivered a staggering real-term cuts to the rural and islands budget over the next few years. Over £75 million is about to be cut in real-terms because SNP-Green Ministers are all too happy to pass on cuts to rural and remote communities.”

The MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire said that the move had once again shown that the administration was out-of-touch with the needs of rural communities.

“The devastating cuts to agricultural support will have a significant impact on our farmers and the wider sector, who are in desperate need of further and sustainable support, yet now see less money will be available to them in such a crucial period over the next few years.

“Due to the SNP’s reckless spending decisions on so many fronts, our rural economy is set to take a major hit once again, which is the last thing it needs after the impact of the Covid pandemic.

“I will continue to stand up for our rural and island communities in the wake of the SNP-Green Government deciding to hammer them with savage cuts which are simply not sustainable.”

Speaking at the recent round of regional meetings NFU Scotland president, Martin Kennedy, said that it was crucial for the continued viability of Scotland’s farming sector that the support budget for production related activities was maintained – and he revealed that this had been a key focus of the union’s work in recent months.

This involved a two-pronged approach – as the majority of the £620 farm support budget was provided by the UK Treasury. And with English producers set to see production support decline to zero by 2027, the case had to be argued strongly.

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And he said that with the UK now outwith the CAP, this spending was no longer necessarily ring-fenced for agriculture and so the Scottish Government had to be convinced to maintain the rural budget.

But he was unapologetic about calling for continued production support, stating that while the farm support budget was just over £600 million, this actually represented only half of one per cent of Scotland’s total public spending bill of £99 billion.



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