By Fergus Ewing, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Tourism

" 'The UK government will continue to give farmers and the environment as much support - or perhaps even more - as they get now' – That was the bold claim of George Eustice one month before the EU referendum in 2016. How hollow it seems now.

The Tories have instead chosen to cut funding for rural support – between 2021 and 2025, Scotland will lose out on some £170 million. We face an immediate loss of the remainder of our 2014-2020 Common Agricultural Policy budget – £33 million already committed for our farmers and rural communities – and the method of future allocation chosen by the UK Government leaves us with an annual shortfall of £15 million.

Quite simply and brazenly, they are breaking their promise that we would be better off by leaving the EU.

Worse, they have betrayed us on Bew. The UK Government publicly accepted the concept of ‘uplift’ for less productive areas as set out in the Bew Review. Despite this, no commitment of additional funding has been made after 2022 – right now this is leaving a £77.1 million gap in our budgets up to 2025.

My sustained pressure has resulted in a promise of talks, but I shouldn’t have to be pressing – again – for Scotland to get a fair share of UK funding for farming and food production. And our farmers and crofters should not be going into 2021 facing even more unnecessary uncertainty.

As before, I give my word that I will not give up the fight to get Scottish farming and crofting its due and to prevent the Tories back-tracking on previous commitments.

The Tories will claim they are honouring their manifesto pledge but facts are chiels that winna ding. They are deliberately ignoring the complex nature of spending across multi-annual frameworks that we enjoyed when in the EU – indeed, had we stayed in the EU and CAP, we would now have certainty and clarity on our funding envelope for the next five years.

It makes the transition period of ‘Stability and Simplicity’ up to 2024 that I have previously set out all the more sensible. During this period, agricultural businesses will be supported largely as they currently are with improvements and simplifications already being made on penalties and inspections.

This gives us the space we need to design and develop new approaches that reflect the need to change and for agriculture to play its part in tackling climate change and help to cut emissions. That work is underway through a series of farmer-led groups helping to guide how we make farming and food production more sustainable and productive. The Beef Suckler Group has already reported and the Programme Board set up to help turn recommendations into reality has to date met twice. Andrew Moir is chairing an arable group, Joyce Campbell and incoming NFUS President, Martin Kennedy are co-chairing a group on hill and upland farming and Jackie McCreery is chairing the one on dairy.

It means that future policy and support under this government will be informed by the expertise and knowledge of farmers and crofters. Crucially, it also signals an important difference between us and the Tories at Westminster – we believe our farmers and crofters contribute value to the country in three main ways, by producing high quality food; by being the custodians of the countryside; and by forming the backbone of our rural communities.

They provide real tangible and interlinked benefits in these three functions. And we believe that they should continue to be supported for all of that invaluable work.

The financial model we envisage in the future will continue direct income support for our farmers and crofters, but after a transition period make that support conditional upon meeting the climate change challenge.

So we will forge our own path post Brexit – and we will not allow the Tories’ different plans for English farming to get in our way. These are devolved matters, we should get the funding we are entitled to and be allowed to get on with allocating it to meet our needs and interests.

Scotland’s farmers and crofters work very hard for their payments – they deserve and earn them by providing value to society for producing food and stewarding the land. We should celebrate that and pledge to continue that vital financial support that keeps the heart of rural Scotland pumping strongly. And I would hope all politicians in Scotland will back my efforts to achieve this."