Struggling dairy farmers on the Isle of Bute have been handed some urgent financial support from the government.
Scottish rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead announced on Wednesday (27 May) that about £65,000 would be provided over the next six months.
The support will be used to cover the cost of tankers returning empty on ferries to Bute from the mainland.
The move follows concerns about the decision by First Milk to further reduce the price of milk paid to farmers on Bute, the impact on the local economy and the sustainability of the industry on the island.
A group of 13 dairy producers based on Bute who supply First Milk, have seen their milk prices cut by about 12p/litre in the past 12 months.
They will be hit with a further price cut of 1.2p/litre from June 1.
“We have been doing everything we can to help our dairy farmers through the recent deductions in milk prices globally,” said Mr Lochhead.
“However, the recent announcement from First Milk that they will pay farmers on Bute a lower price for their milk is concerning and clearly highlights the extra challenges the dairy sector faces on this island.
“I look forward to hearing from First Milk about their plans to ensure a sustainable future for these farmers and am pleased the Scottish government is able to provide some short-term funding in the meantime.”
Richard Lochhead, Scottish rural affairs secretary
“We recognise the significant additional burden being faced by dairy farmers on Bute.
“I look forward to hearing from First Milk about their plans to ensure a sustainable future for these farmers and am pleased the Scottish government is able to provide some short-term funding in the meantime.
“We are committed to working with the dairy sector in these volatile times, and have separately agreed to provide funding of £400,000 to Campbeltown Creamery, which is expected to be made shortly.
“The Scottish government has already set up the Dairy Growth Board and published the Dairy Action Plan to help increase exports and this work will take a significant step forward with the first glimpse of the Scottish Dairy Brand expected at the Royal Highland Show next month.”
Michael Russell, Scottish National Party MSP for Argyll and Bute, welcomed the government’s announcement.
“In the face of recent challenges for the sector, this is a very welcome piece of much-needed good news for Bute and Gigha dairy farmers – who will be pleased that the Scottish government has taken strong action to protect their interests by delivering this support,” he said.