The Scottish National Party has been accused of failing to support the rural economy with its swingeing cuts to the Scottish rural affairs in the 2019-20 budget delivered to the Scottish Parliament this week.
Despite claims that the government will invest in the rural economy, the budget shows it will actually cut business development by 13.3%; agri-environment measures by 7.3%; and LEADER by 10.9%.
In addition, funding for Less Favoured Area Support Scheme has also reduced by £14 million in real terms.
Rivals also accuse the budget of failing to encourage new entrants into farming. Level 4 of the budget reiterates that new entrants schemes are closed to applications as they have committed the full SRDP allocation. However, there is no funding for a similar scheme.
The digital connectivity budget has also been cut to £32.9 million, despite the SNP commitment to spend £600 million to deliver superfast broadband by 2021.
The Scottish Conservatives have said that this SNP budget fails to support the long-term future of rural communities and is instead a “kick in the teeth”.
Donald Cameron, Scottish Conservative shadow rural affairs secretary said: “This SNP budget absolutely fails to address the issues faced by rural communities and businesses across Scotland.
“Indeed, the cuts to rural business development are counter-productive in the extreme and will erode the sustainability of rural communities.
Critically, the failure to invest in new entrants to farming programmes or broadband poses significant short-term challenges for farms.
“The SNP claim that rural Scotland is a priority, yet with everything they do, they show that, to them, rural Scotland is dispensable.
“Farmers, tourism businesses, and the communities that are built around them are all poorer for this budget. This is nothing less than a kick in the teeth for rural Scotland.”