The First Minister has pledged that at least 70% of future funding will be delivered in Tiers one and two of the new agricultural policy.

Humza Yousaf made the announcement at the NFU Scotland AGM in Glasgow today, Friday, February 9, where he addressed more than 400 delegates from across the industry and said the £61m convergence funding would be returned to the agri portfolio.

In a wide-ranging speech, Mr Yousaf informed delegates that funding for Tiers one and two will constitute at least 70% of the overall funding envelope to support farming, crofting and land management from 2027.

These are the tiers that will reflect most closely the current direct payment regime that delivers schemes such as Basic Payment Scheme and Greening.

In addition, funding for the replacement for the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme, currently worth £65m, will be made available through Tier two once the replacement scheme has been decided.

NFUS president Martin Kennedy welcomed the 'clarity on future funding levels'.

He said: “Equally important was the First Minister’s recognition of the economic importance of our sector and his stated ambition that he wants to see our production of high-quality food and drink grow. That needs farming and crofting to be at the heart of the new agricultural policy and this Tier one and Tier two funding announcement is a lobbying success for NFU Scotland.

“For our highly productive, unsupported sectors such as pigs, poultry, horticulture and potatoes, funding in Tiers three and four will be vital in providing support for business development, investment and growth.

“However, current experience of some schemes is that the regulatory, planning and administrative hoops that applicants are having to jump through to access funds are acting as a disincentive and, in some cases, leading to an underspend in some schemes. We want to work with Scottish Government to ensure, in the future, Tier three and Tier four funding can be easily drawn down so that it acts as the economic driver that it was intended to be.”

However, Mr Kennedy added the “huge unknown” is the level of agricultural funding to be made available to Scotland by Westminster.

Scottish Land and Estates said the announcements will increase industry confidence 'to some degree' and welcomed the commitment that agriculture policy would be ‘co-designed’.

Senior policy adviser at SLaE, Eleanor Kay, said: “The First Minister has set out the allocation of future funding and this will increase the sector’s confidence to some degree.

“However, we have repeatedly made the case for impact assessments and modelling data to be produced by government to explain the rationale for such changes and examine how changes to funding will have an effect. We still need to see this produced.

“Considering the challenges of biodiversity, climate change and food security, the Scottish Government must be clear on what balance it is seeking to achieve and how it will deliver a resilient farming sector. We welcome the announcement that the government will continue to support high-quality livestock production – as long as it is sustainable production, we know it can form a key part of ecosystems and habitat restoration.

Mr Yousaf’s address was not universally welcomed.

Speaking after the event , Scottish Tory MSP Ed Mountain said: “Farmers, like myself in the audience, will rightly have been left feeling completely underwhelmed by Humza Yousaf’s hapless speech that failed to address a range of key issues concerning the industry.

“We know farmers are custodians of the countryside and suggestions from Humza Yousaf that they are inefficient shows how out of touch he and his SNP Government are.

“Slashing the agriculture budget has come at the worst possible time, with the sector facing a litany of challenges.

“From concerns about national parks to flood protection and fears over the up-scaling of beavers, no assurances were given from this First Minister who has relegated farming to the bottom of his priority list.”