NFU Scotland is demanding an urgent meeting with the First Minister of Scotland ahead of the budget statement to clarify when and how withdrawn agriculture funds will be returned.

In a letter sent to Humza Yousaf MSP, President Martin Kennedy highlighted a series of what the Union is concluding are ‘at best hollow promises’, received from both the previous and current Deputy First Ministers, that withdrawn money for agriculture would rightly be returned to the sector.

Mr Kennedy’s request to meet the First Minister is coming after NFU Scotland received a response from the Deputy First Minister rejecting the Union’s proposal that funds be returned swiftly and effectively within the 2023/24 financial year via a top-up to Basic Payments and Greening. With this proposal being rejected, Mr. Kennedy is looking for an urgent meeting with the First Minister to discuss the situation and urge him to intervene and resolve the matter ahead of the budget statement scheduled for December 19.

In his letter to the First Minister, Mr. Kennedy wrote: “The decision to remove £28 million from the agriculture budget this year truly beggars’ belief, particularly at a time when many farmers and crofters across the country are genuinely struggling to remain viable due to the perfect storm of spiralling production costs, low market returns, volatile weather, and increasing levels of regulation. Quite frankly, these pressures are becoming unsustainable for many businesses, and decisions such as this simply compound the sense of despair.

“This decision comes hard on the heels of a similar move last year by the then Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP when he announced that £33 million would be removed from the agriculture budget to meet pressures elsewhere in the Scottish Government’s finances. On both occasions, farmers and crofters have been promised that the monies will be returned but no clarity has been given as to when or how this funding will be delivered.”

See this week's The Scottish Farmer for full coverage of the Agriculture funding dispute (9th December 2023) and online with our digital pack for our digital edition