The National Farmers’ Union of Scotland (NFUS) has written to the deputy first minister to call for £61 million of deferred agricultural budget funding to be given through direct support top-ups this financial year.

The figure of £61 million is made up from £33 million in funding awarded in 2019, which was then deferred, and a further deferred £28 million from 2023/24 in-year budget changes.

Deputy First Minister, Shona Robinson said, while confirming the reductions last week, that the £28 million would be returned in “future years”.

However, NFUS said it received “categorical reassurance” from Minster Robinson and the cabinet secretary for finance that 2019’s £33 million would be returned, and that it has not been.

The union is asking that, instead of deferring these “vital funds”, that the Scottish government allocates them this financial year through Pillar 1 direct support payments.

NFUS said it had not been informed that this year’s £28 million in funding would be deferred:

“The union had not been informed or consulted on the decision and, with £61 million of agricultural funding now removed in total, it raised its concerns in person when representatives met with Shona Robison MSP last week.”

‘Cash injection’

The union is calling for the government to use the £61 million in funding as a supplement to the 2023 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and Greening.

The £61 million of “uncommitted funding”, the union saida, would amount to almost 16% of the BPS and Greening envelope.

A one-off 16% uplift in 2023 BPS and Greening would provide a significant “cash injection” to agricultural businesses in Scotland, the union said.

Writing to the Cabinet Secretary this week, NFUS president Martin Kennedy said: “Scotland’s farmers and crofters are angry and frustrated that, for the second consecutive year, vital funds have been deferred from the agricultural budget.

“These decisions were taken without any consultation or engagement with NFU Scotland or the wider agricultural industry.

“This action is all the more frustrating in the light of funding being unavailable for capital schemes such as the Food Processing, Marketing and Cooperation (FPMC) Scheme.”

Kennedy said the £61 million in agricultural funding was formally ringfenced by the UK government for the Scottish government to spend on agricultural support and rural development.

“While we recognise there are many financial pressures for the Scottish government to reconcile, there must also be recognition of the significant return on investment generated by the expenditure through the ARE portfolio – delivering high quality food production as the mainstay of our vital food and drinks sector, as well a host of environmentally and socially vital public goods.

“We have been informed by Scottish government that this money must be spent in this financial year (2023/24). We are also told that this funding must be used as ‘resource’ rather than ‘capital.’ 

“That being the case, we cannot accept losing it from both Scottish agriculture and Scotland Plc.

“Delivering it through BPS and Greening top ups will restore confidence in the budgetary process and is the right thing to do for Scotland’s farmers and crofters and the whole rural economy.”