CROFTING FEDERATION CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO STOP DEFERRAL OF AGRICULTURAL SUPPORT
Reports of further cuts to agricultural support, as anticipated by depute first minister Shona Robison, were met with grave concern by SCF.
SCF Chair Jonathan Hedges commented: “For the second successive year, funding in the region of £30 million will reportedly be deferred to an unknown later date. These funds are urgently needed to get Scotland’s post-Brexit transformation of agricultural policy underway. With the new Agricultural and Rural Communities Bill progressing through parliament, now is the time to invest uncommitted funding in testing various aspects of the new agricultural policy and approaches, making sure that future funding options in all tiers will work for crofters and small-scale producers.
There continues to be a lack of consultation or briefings on this and other issues and we urge Scottish Government to improve their engagement with those on the ground.”
“The EU convergence funds returned to Scotland as a result of the Bew Report were always intended to be ring-fenced for marginal and upland agriculture, such as crofters’ common grazings. Our members are concerned that the loss of this money will result in permanent cuts to rural support.”
Mr Hedges continued: “If agricultural support is further reduced and no meaningful commitment towards a redistribution of payments is made in the course of the ongoing agricultural policy reform, crofting as a sustainable practice and part of the country’s national identity is at the risk of disappearing forever. Crofting maintains remote rural communities, provides well-known environmental benefits and quality local produce, all part of the Scottish Government’s commitments for the future.”
SCF has written to rural affairs secretary, Mairi Gougeon, seeking assurance that there will be no cuts to crofting support when crofters are already coping with the impact of increased costs and huge uncertainty over the future agricultural policy.
Mr Hedges concluded: “We can only hope that once these funds are returned, they will be ring fenced and used as originally intended.”