SCOTLAND NEEDS urgent clarity on the future funding arrangements for its farmers, foresters, land managers and rural businesses.

During Prime Minister Theresa May's tenure, Westminster committed to maintaining current farm support budgets across the UK until the end of the current parliament or 2022, whichever came first.

With an early General Election now on the way, and with that a change of parliament, the Scottish Government wants to hear that commitment repeated, and the exact definition of ‘farm support’ clarified, given longstanding doubts that Westminster would match the Scottish Rural Development Programme funding that was paid for out of the EU's 'Pillar 2' budget.

Scottish Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing this week wrote to Secretary of State at DEFRA Theresa Villiers calling for urgent written confirmation that all lost EU funding would be replaced in full, and that the definition of 'farm support' would encompass Pillar 2 rural development measures like LEADER, forestry and food and drink.

"As I have explained to your predecessor, many of the sectors that this funding supports require long term planning – from farmers planning their crop rotations and forecasting the number of cattle or lambs they need to produce for a market in a year’s time; to the forestry industry ensuring sufficient saplings are available for planting in coming years; to rural communities investing in businesses to make them more viable and help prevent rural depopulation," Mr Ewing wrote to Ms Villiers.

Mr Ewing also noted that there was still no detail on the proposed 'UK Shared Prosperity Fund', and in particular whether that fund would cover elements of rural support that were not covered by the farm support commitment.

"We and stakeholders across the UK are still in the dark. A sudden gap in funding will have particular implications for rural communities and businesses across Scotland and it is imperative that you clarify the position as soon as possible."