Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon has announced the return of £15 million to the rural portfolio in the 2024-25 budget.
The cash will be available for ‘capital priorities’ where Ms Gougeon states is the “greatest need.”
Addressing the Rural Affairs Committee at the Scottish Parliament yesterday, Ms Gougeon said: “Members of the committee have rightly taken a keen interest in the ring-fenced money due to return to the portfolio. I welcome the return of the first tranche of this funding.
“This money is allocated as resource funding with capital priorities where the greatest need exists. I welcome the Deputy First Minister’s agreement that the portfolio will instead receive it as capital funding to provide real support to our rural communities.
Gougeon welcomes return of the first tranche of funding
“It will fund vital unfunded capital priorities which will provide important support including the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme, Agricultural Transformation Fund, and crofting grants.”
Ms Gougeon said that the government will do “all that it can with all that it has” to support rural industries and sectors.”
Scottish Conservative shadow rural affairs secretary Rachael Hamilton MSP said farmers, crofters and rural Scotland have been used as an easy target by SNP-Green ministers for cuts all too often.
“Mairi Gougeon’s boasts about £15 million, which is just a fraction of the total £61 million funding being returned to the Scottish agriculture budget were straight from the SNP’s playbook of shameless spin.
“Shona Robison’s disastrous budget has once again earmarked a reduction in the rural affairs budget, so returning this tranche of already ring-fenced money is hardly great cause for great celebration for the rural sector.
‘No great cause for great celebration’ says Rachael Hamilton MSP
“In the midst of rural communities and workers facing incredible challenges, Mairi Gougeon has failed to stand up for them. She 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’s (NFUS) president Martin Kennedy said: “Scotland’s farmers and crofters deserve absolute clarity on Scotland’s proposed budget for 2024/25 and the Scottish Government will have the opportunity to deliver that when it addresses the NFUS AGM and conference in February.
“This evidence session delivers as much confusion as clarity and Scotland’s farmers and crofters are none the wiser as to when all the deferred funding will be returned, as promised.”