Increased funding for Less Favoured Areas, the Agricultural Transformation and the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme have been announced in the Scottish Budget for 2021.
While more detail is yet to emerge, the main commitments for farming are:
- Less Favoured Areas Support reinstated to its 2018 level of £65m
- £40m Agriculture Transformation Fund
- £34.2m for the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme
- Uplift in spending for Scotland Food and Drink industry support, local authorities, Crofting Commission and Animal Health
- Support for tree planting, peatland restoration and connectivity
NFU Scotland has welcomed these announcements in the face of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis and its impact on the economy, as well as the challenging post-EU transition period.
However, it will continue to seek longer-term commitments to funding beyond 2021.
Confirmation that the budget for Less Favoured Areas will be returned to its 2018 level is a win for NFUS lobbying and will be welcomed by many farmers and crofters, said president Andrew McCornick.
The union has consistently queried the apparent underspend of the £40m Agricultural Transformation Programme in 2020-21, with just over half of the budget being allocated to the Sustainable Agriculture Capital Grant Scheme and support for woodlands and forestry.
“We welcome that this funding has been recommitted in the 2021-22 budget and we will continue to work with the Scottish government on how to best target this funding,” said Mr McCornick.
“We knew the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme would be a partial scheme. That must now be backed by a long-term continuation and a commitment to vastly expand it and make it accessible for all who wish to undertake these important agri-environment measures.”
Farmers and crofters urged to consider apprenticeship fund
NFU Scotland has urged all farmers and crofters looking to create an employment opportunity to consider applying to the Apprenticeship Employer Grant (AEG) for support.
The Scottish government has recently increased the funding available, recognising the severe impact of Covid-19 on the economy and employment opportunities.
The fund is worth up to £5,000 to an employer and is open until 25 March.
For more information, visit Skills Development Scotland’s website.
NFU Scotland’s vice-president Charlie Adam said: “Taking on an apprentice is a sound investment in the future. If you are considering creating an employment opportunity, this grant could be the stimulus you need to go down that route.
“More information on apprenticeships is available from NFUS, Lantra, local college or training providers or any farmer who has previously supported an apprentice.”