Scottish farm debts rose 7% last year to reach the highest level since the late 1980s.

The value of outstanding loans to the agricultural sector increased £120m to total £1.84bn in the year to May 2014.

Accounting for inflation, farm debt rose 5% last year and is now at the highest point since 1987.

See also: UK farm borrowings rise to record

NFU Scotland chief executive Scott Walker said the figures could show farm businesses had borrowed more to fund investment or keep the business going in volatile times.

He said the weather of 2012 and 2013 would have affected input costs and yields and farm incomes could take several years to recover.

“Accessible and affordable lending is a vital component in keeping Scottish agriculture moving forward.”
Scott Walker, NFU Scotland chief executive

“Accessible and affordable lending is a vital component in keeping Scottish agriculture moving forward,” Mr Walker said.

Bank of England figures for the whole UK showed the farming sector was the only industry to see rises in outstanding debt in each of the past three years.

Scottish rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said it was vital farmers could access capital to invest in their businesses.

“These statistics – which show that banks are still lending to farmers – suggest continued confidence in this sector,” he said.

“Although debt levels are at their highest since the 1980s, it is reassuring to see that in real terms outstanding debt has remained relatively stable for the past 25 years.

“However with many farmers relying on subsidies for a large part of their income, we must be wary of farmers getting into excessive and unmanageable debt.”