Scottish Conservative shadow rural affairs secretary Rachael Hamilton has urged Scotland’s First Minister to stop using farmers as a ‘scapegoat’ and return the promised £46 million to the agriculture budget at NFU Scotland’s conference next week.
Ms Hamilton’s message comes after it has been confirmed that Humza Yousaf will attend the union’s annual event in Glasgow on February 8 and 9.
Rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon will also been in attendance just two weeks after she announced that only £15 million would be returned to the rural portfolio in the 2024-25 budget.
Ahead of the conference, the Scottish Conservatives have called on Humza Yousaf to “give farmers the priority they deserve” by announcing the return of the £46 million to the rural sector.
Ms Hamilton described the SNP’s silence cuts to Scotland’s agriculture funding as ”deafening” but says the First Minister now has the chance to deliver the money that his government promised to farmers at the union’s conference next week.
‘Give farmers the priority they deserve’ says opposition party
She said: “I’m deeply concerned at the uncertainty that our farming industry is facing under this Scottish Government after Mairi Gougeon’s announcement that just 25% of the funding would be returned.
“Farming is central to Scotland’s domestic economy and it is only right that those who work in our agricultural sector are appropriately supported, but at the moment, it’s clear they are not.
“Next week, Humza Yousaf must stop using farmers as a scapegoat and instead honour the SNP’s previous promise and guarantee the return of this vital funding or risk Scotland’s food security and the livelihoods of our farmers.”
‘Deeply concerned of uncertainty in farming industry’
Meanwhile, Banff and Buchan Conservative MP David Duguid said: “Our farmers, crofters, and agricultural workers are repeatedly let down by an SNP-Green Government that only focuses on the central belt and does not understand the needs of Scotland’s rural communities.
“Farmers in areas such as Aberdeenshire want certainty for the future and Humza Yousaf must give them the priority they deserve by announcing that the remaining £46 million will be returned as promised.
“The UK Government is backing Scottish farming with £620 million this year, recognising their critical importance to this country.
‘Farmers, crofters and agri workers are repeatedly let down by an SNP-Green Government’ says local MP
“Typically for the SNP, time after time, they make their own promises to our agricultural sector but fail to deliver.
“Humza Yousaf has the perfect chance next week to announce the full return of this funding which will benefit our farmers both in Aberdeenshire and across the rest of Scotland.”
UK Government Minister for Scotland John Lamont will also attend the conference and will give a speech on the work his government is doing to support Scotland’s agricultural industry.