THE SCOTTISH Government has been criticised for not introducing a dairy hardship fund for dairy farmers hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Scottish Conservative MSP Finlay Carson is behind the criticism: “The SNP Government have failed to protect the sector with any sort of funding support during this time and we need to ensure that the sector can be protected going forward."

Urging dairy farmers in his region of Dumfries and Galloway to make sure their voices are heard in the dairy contracts consultation which ends on September 15, 2020, Mr Carson added: “This can help to level up the playing field in the dairy sector, which for too long has been hit by unfair prices and unfair exclusivity clauses in their contracts and this is a chance to change that.”

The Scottish Government rebuked the South of Scotland MSP, stating that other parts of the UK who received Covid hardship funds were much worse affected.

“It is entirely misleading to say that the Scottish Government has not supported the dairy sector during this period,” said Minister for Rural Affairs Mairi Gougeon. “Covid-19 has obviously had an impact on many in the food and farming sector, but dairy production in Scotland has been nowhere near as badly affected as elsewhere in the UK. Compensation schemes introduced in England and Wales have only helped a very small group of the worst affected dairy farmers”

The Scottish Government consulted with the dairy sector, including NFUS, which agreed that it did not want a similar scheme for Scotland.

Ms Gougeon continued: “Instead we worked constructively with the sector to help introduce a suite of agreed practical measures. This included temporary easement of competition law requirements to allow industry to share more data and work closer together, as well as financial support to the joint Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board and Dairy UK marketing campaign to encourage more consumption of dairy products.”