Scots Tories pour cold water on £15m rural budget boost

Scottish Conservatives have accused the country’s rural affairs secretary, Mairi Gougeon, of “shameless spin” after she announced that some £15m of rural spending, previously cut from the 2024-25 draft budget, would be returned.

Addressing the Scottish parliament’s rural affairs committee on Wednesday (17 January), Ms Gougeon explained that the £15m was a “first tranche” of the ring-fenced money due to be allocated to rural spending.

It would be used for “capital priorities”, including the Agri-environment Climate Scheme, the Agricultural Transformation Fund, and crofting grants.

See also: Scots brace themselves for further rural budget cuts

But shadow rural affairs secretary Rachael Hamilton said the money was just a fraction of the total £61m due to be returned to the Scottish agricultural budget.

“Returning this tranche of already ring-fenced money is hardly cause for great celebration for the rural sector,” she said.

“[Ms Gougeon] must urgently confirm when all of this ring-fenced money will be returned, rather than it being diverted away from the interests of rural Scotland.”


NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy said the rural affairs committee evidence session delivered as much confusion as clarity, pointing out that it had previously been said the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme and the Agricultural Transformation Fund budgets would be cut.

“Scotland’s farmers and crofters are none the wiser as to when all of the £61m of deferred funding will be returned to the agricultural budget, as promised,” he said.

“Our position remains unchanged. Providing adequate support to, and investment in, the agricultural sector right now would deliver a clear signal that the Scottish government is genuinely committed to the long-term future of the country’s primary producers in our endeavours to produce high-quality food, address climate change, and support biodiversity recovery.”

The Scottish government is expected to finalise the 2024-25 budget in the coming weeks.

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