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Scottish Government Warned: Return £46m to Agriculture or Risk Food Security

The Scottish government has been cautioned by an MSP that they must return £46 million to farmers, or risk compromising food security and net zero plans.

The allocated funds, amounting to £33 million from the Bew Review, were withdrawn from the agriculture budget during the emergency budget review in November 2022, aim

ed at addressing the cost-of-living crisis. Additionally, £28 million was redirected during the Scottish government’s 2023 Autumn Statement reprioritisations.

Although the Bew Review funding, originally intended for agriculture, was ring-fenced, it was redirected to cover other expenditures in the Scottish Budget.

In June 2023, the farming sector received assurances from deputy First Minister Shona Robison that the £33 million would be reimbursed. However, in January of the following year, Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon announced that only £15 million would be returned in 2024-2025.

Addressing the issue, Jim Fairlie, Scotland's farming minister, stated on Wednesday (13 March): “The remaining ring-fenced funds will be returned in full at the right time for specific measures that will help to reform the transformation of Scotland’s farming industry.”

However, Scottish Conservative MSP Douglas Lumsden argued for a renewed commitment to returning the funds to the agriculture budget. Following Mr Fairlie's remarks in the Scottish Parliament, he stated: “Vague assurances provide no reassurance to our farmers.”

“At the NFUS conference, the First Minister couldn't specify when the £46 million would be returned to the agricultural budget. Since then, the Scottish government has received an additional £295 million in Barnett consequentials from Westminster."

Lumsden emphasised that the Bew money was explicitly designated for agriculture, having been 'hard-won' by Scottish farmers.

“This constitutes a small fraction of the Scottish budget compared to the significant responsibilities placed on farmers and crofters," the North East MSP commented.

He warned, “If the government fail to reinstate this funding in its entirety, they risk compromising both our food security and the entire industry's efforts to decarbonise.”


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