The SNP Government has been slammed for cutting the Agricultural Transformation Fund by £20 million, with political opponents warning the move will have a ‘devastating impact’ on farming.
The fund, designed to help farmers reach net zero, will be used to pay for land use skills training and to purchase the latest low carbon farming technologies, but will be cut from £45m in 2021-22 to £25m in 2022-23.
Scottish Conservative Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary Rachael Hamilton said it was ‘astonishing’ that the budget had been slashed.
“This significant loss of funding will have a devastating effect on future food and farming production efforts,” she added.
“It is completely misguided. Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing us, but now our farmers have had the rug pulled from under them at such a crucial time.”
Speaking to Farmers Guardian, a Scottish Government spokesperson blamed the UK Government for failing to provide ‘sufficient budget’ to replace EU funding.
“Between 2021-22 and 2024-25, Scotland is set to lose out on approximately £93 million,” said the spokesperson.
“We have been clear that we expect full replacement of EU funds to ensure no detriment to Scotland’s finances, and we expect the UK Government to fully respect the devolution settlement in any future arrangement.”
The spokesperson went on to claim the Scottish Government wanted to make the country a ‘global leader’ in sustainable and regenerative agriculture, pointing to a commitment to spend £51m over the next three years on the National Test Programme, which will encourage farmers and crofters to learn about how their work affects climate and nature.
NFU Scotland’s director of policy Jonnie Hall told FG the cut to the transformation fund was ‘concerning’.
“It creates questions as we expected this funding to be earmarked for a second round of the Sustainable Agriculture Capital Grants,” he said.
But Mr Hall did welcome the continuity of ‘pillar 1’ funding, used to deliver the Basic Payment Scheme, as it ‘delivers stability throughout the transition period to a new policy in 2025’.
“Stability for our hill and upland farmers and crofters is also backed up by the LFA budget being ringfenced at £65.5m – a major lobbying success for NFU Scotland,” he added.