The Scottish Government’s spending plans for 2019/20 need to include policy support for farmers and the right financial tools to allow rural businesses to anticipate a prosperous future outside the EU, says NFU Scotland (NFUS).
Writing to Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Derek Mackay, ahead of Wednesday’s annual budget statement to the Scottish Parliament, NFUS sets out a list of requirements for future support, all designed to enable farmers and crofters to be more productive, resilient and environmentally effective.
At the same time, Mr Mackay was urged by Scottish Conservative MSP for the north-east, Peter Chapman, to listen to the farming industry and “stop blaming Westminster” over agriculture issues.
Arguing that Scotland has fallen behind other parts of the UK in preparations for leaving the EU and that farming barely merited a mention in the SNP’s programme for government, Mr Chapman said he supported the NFUS position, particularly on the need for government to revisit the new entrants scheme and the application of sporting rates.
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For his part, NFUS president Andrew McCornick said the union was continuing to work with Scottish Government to ensure farmers and crofters get the best possible deal from EU exit, hopefully avoiding a ‘no deal’ outcome at all costs.
Given the right deal, however, he believes there will be opportunities to build a new agricultural policy in Scotland, equipped to drive the industry to become more competitive, resilient and profitable.
On the specifics of the union’s letter to Mr Mackay, he stressed the need for government to find a solution to the upcoming funding changes proposed for the ‘lifeline’ Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS).
“Looking to the future, we want to work with Scottish Government to ensure that Scotland’s next generation of farmers and crofters are supported both by policy and the right financial tools to allow their fledgling businesses to be successful,” said Mr McCornick.
“Following the closure of the New Entrants’ Capital Grant Scheme this year, it is all the more important that the Scottish Government’s spending plans have measures that will inject confidence back into new agricultural businesses by recommitting funding to these schemes.”
Other pre-budget requests included a reinvestment of funding into the Processing and Marketing Grants Cooperation Scheme, action on business rates for renewables, attention to sporting rates, and better help for farmers and the food sector in cutting waste.