IN A withering attack on the UK Conservative Government's 'cack-handed' plans for farming post-Brexit, the SNP has condemned the loss of some £170 million from Scotland's rural budget.

But at the same time, Tory ministers have continued to insist that there is no such loss, and promised that Scottish farmers will be better off outside the European Union.

This difference in opinion hinges, as it has for several years, upon varying interpretations of what constitutes 'farm support' – the SNP calculation includes both the 'pillar one' direct subsidy budget – which Westminster is matching – plus the 'pillar 2' rural development finding that once flowed from Europe, which the Conservatives seem to have sidelined.

Warning Scottish farmers 'not to trust the Tories', the SNP has pointed to Defra secretary George Eustice's newly released plan to shift funding away from food production in England, cutting in half the £1.8billion direct payments to England’s farmers by 2024 on the way to phasing them out fully by 2028.

SNP MSP Emma Harper said: “These plans show the Tories’ true colours. Now they are pressing on with their own cack-handed planning while also robbing Scotland blind of rural funding. As it stands, Scotland’s farming communities stand to lose an eye-watering £170m between now and 2025.

"Their plans are ominous for England’s farmers, with an end to support for food production. By contrast, the SNP is clear that it will continue to directly support farmers and crofters in Scotland to produce food in the future as well as to cut emissions and protect the environment," said Ms Harper.

“This Tory Government really doesn’t care how much damage Brexit does – the loss of free trade with our biggest overseas market, the loss of vital seasonal labour and now the loss of crucial funds which help hill and upland farmers, create woodland, enhance the environment and support rural community projects. After all their promises of a land of milk and honey, this is the harsh reality of Brexit Britain. You can’t trust the Tories and again Scotland is paying a very heavy price.”

However, the UK Government Minister for Scotland, David Duguid, has written an open letter to National Farmers Union Scotland president Andrew McCornick taking issue with his publicly voiced concerns over funding for Scottish farming.

"I want to reassure you that claims that £170 million will be cut from Scottish farming support are simply incorrect and that Scotland’s farmers will have far greater security in this coming year than they would have had inside the EU," said Mr Duguid.

"Here are the facts. In 2019, the UK Government made a commitment to match the current annual budget to farmers in every year of this Parliament. In 2019, Scotland’s farming community received almost £595 million in total farm support. In 2021/22, Scotland will receive a little over £24 million in outstanding EU funds, and just over £570 million in new Exchequer funding, totalling almost £595 million.

"In 2021/22, the UK Government has also been able to increase Scotland’s block grant by £2.4 billion in real terms, which the Scottish Government can use to benefit farmers and farming communities. We promised that no farmer would be out of pocket – we have delivered on that promise, and will continue to deliver for every year of this Parliament.

"The EU is in fact taking a very different direction on funding the Common Agricultural Policy," added Mr Duguid. "CAP funding is likely to be cut by around 10% for the coming funding period. For Scotland, this would have amounted to an annual loss of almost £60 million. Within the EU, Scotland and the rest of the UK had too little say in how farming payments were distributed to our farmers. Farmers, consumers and taxpayers will benefit from closing the door on the CAP.

"Being outside the EU not only gives our farmers a guarantee that their funding will be maintained, but also means we can develop specific policies which are suitable for Scottish and UK farmers. This will allow the UK to innovate and to incentivise sustainable practices to support our ambitious, world-leading 25 Year Environment Plan."