Yousaf urged to return promised £46 million agriculture funding
Humza Yousaf has been urged to “stop using farmers as a scapegoat” and return the remaining £46 million of funding to the Scottish agriculture budget when he addresses the NFUS Conference next week.
The First Minister will deliver a speech at the annual event in Glasgow on Friday, February 9, while SNP rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon will also be in attendance.
It comes two weeks after she announced that just £15 million would be returned to the rural portfolio in the 2024-25 budget.
In June last year, NFUS received a categorical assurance from deputy First Minister Shona Robison that the £33 million deferred from the agricultural budget in 2022 would be returned to the agricultural budget.
Instead of that money being returned, it emerged that a further £28 million of uncommitted funding was to go the same way but Ms Robison promised to fully return the total amount without giving a timeline.
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.
Scottish Conservative shadow rural affairs secretary Rachael Hamilton MSP said: “The SNP’s silence on cuts to Scotland’s agriculture funding has been deafening but Humza Yousaf now has the chance to deliver the money that his government promised to farmers at the NFUS Conference next week.
“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 per cent 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.”
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 and Moray 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.
“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 the north-east and across the rest of Scotland.”
UK Government Minister for Scotland, John Lamont MP, is also attending the conference and will give a speech on the work his government is doing to support Scotland’s agricultural industry.