NFU Scotland has written to the Scottish Government urging it to ensure that the role of farmers and crofters delivering the nation’s green recovery is written into Scottish Government’s spending plans for 2021-22, due to be unveiled in January.
In a letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Kate Forbes MSP, NFU Scotland restated its view that one of the biggest challenges facing Scotland and public spending was that of climate change.
In previous correspondence with Scottish Government in early 2020, NFU Scotland said the nation’s agricultural industry, and its associated practices and land use, is ready to play its part, both in terms of emissions reductions and carbon sequestration. At the same time, it will continue to deliver food production to the highest of standards – thereby underpinning the most significant sector of the Scottish economy in terms of jobs, manufacturing and export opportunities.
As hopes for post-Covid recovery become more realistic, the Union has relayed a positive message regarding the role the farming sector can play.
NFU Scotland President, Andrew McCornick said
Scotland’s agriculture and land-based sector is best-placed to drive forward Scotland’s green recovery from Covid-19 if enabled to do so.
More than 70 per cent of Scotland’s land is under agricultural management and if the crisis of the pandemic has shown us anything it is that Scottish farmers and crofters remain committed to producing high-quality food in an environmentally and climate-friendly manner in the toughest of circumstances.
The wider economy’s emergence from the pandemic will require Scottish agriculture to continue in its primary role of producing food and drink whilst reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing still further the richness of Scotland’s biodiversity. This will be very challenging.
NFU Scotland is clear that the sector will deliver these ambitions if supported with well-targeted investment from government into new policy tools geared at environmental benefit and productivity measures.
That would underpin rural economies and communities, and a booming Scottish food and drink sector both at home and in export markets.
The UK’s imminent exit from the European Union is, without question, compounding the current economic challenge. NFU Scotland wholeheartedly shares the Scottish Government’s continued concern about a lack of clarity from HM Treasury on the package of financial support for agricultural budgets beyond 2021-2022. I will support the Scottish Government in its efforts to clarify the funding package and will continue to argue that at least the same level of HM Treasury investment is maintained on a multi-annual basis to at least 2024-2025.
The funding HM Treasury is making available to the Scottish Government for 2021- 2022 is clear. In general terms, this equates to £570 million of Exchequer funding, £25 million of EU funding rolling over, and the second tranche of the Bew Review funding (some £25.7 million). In addition, there must also be a continuation of co-financing by the Scottish Government from its own resources to bolster spending on measures other than direct support (Pillar 1) payments.
The challenge for both Scottish Government and NFU Scotland is to ensure that these funds are used to best effect. They must instigate change and transformation as Scotland’s agricultural industry navigates inevitable market shocks in the immediate period following the end of transition and as the agricultural supply chain is forced to adapt to the continued challenges of Covid-19 and restrictions.