NFU Scotland demands clarity on £33m deferred funding

Farm leaders in Scotland are seeking clarification from Scottish government over when £33m deferred from the agricultural budget will be returned to the sector.

NFU Scotland (NFUS) has written to Scotland’s finance secretary, Shona Robison MSP, to ask for a timetable to return the deferred funding to the rural portfolio.

The UK government awarded the £33m to Scotland as part of the 2019 Bew Review into the fair allocation of farm support across the country.

See also: Farmers Question Time shines spotlight on Scots politics

But the Scottish government deferred the funding in its Emergency Budget Review (EBR) in 2022 to support people and businesses through the unprecedented cost-of-living crisis.

The then deputy first minister and cabinet secretary for finance and economy, John Swinney MSP, publicly confirmed to Scottish Parliament in his EBR statement that the £33m would be returned to the sector in future years to deliver on Scotland’s rural priorities.

In response to a parliamentary question last month, Ms Robison said the money will be used to invest in Scotland’s rural priorities. NFUS says an appropriate profile for returning this funding will be considered as part of the 2024-25 process.

NFUS president Martin Kennedy says government investment in agriculture is vital to maintain domestic food production while sustainably tackling climate change, nature restoration and rural depopulation. 

Scottish Conservative shadow rural affairs secretary, Rachael Hamilton MSP, said the SNP-Green government had “left farmers in the dark” over its funding plans for agriculture.

“SNP-Green ministers should heed this call and ensure this money is restored to the rural affairs budget as quickly as possible,” she added.