SNP budget cut to Less Favoured Areas 'unacceptable'

There is also the prospect of an 80% cut to LFASS in 2020, with "complete uncertainty" from then on, NFU Scotland says
There is also the prospect of an 80% cut to LFASS in 2020, with "complete uncertainty" from then on, NFU Scotland says

NFU Scotland have called an SNP budget slash for the country's remote 'Less Favoured Areas' as "unacceptable".

Figures revealed in the Scottish Budget, announced at Holyrood last week, confirm a 20 percent cut in the budget for lifeline Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS) payments.

NFU Scotland have deemed any cut to LFASS payments as "unacceptable".

The SNP-led Scottish Government will also cut business development by 13.3 per cent, agri-environment measures by 7.3 per cent and LEADER by 10.9 per cent.

As well as the cuts that Less Favoured Areas (LFA) farmers and crofters face in 2019, there is the prospect of a possible 80 per cent cut in 2020, with "complete uncertainty" from then on, the union says.

At the request of NFU Scotland, the Scottish Government is working at European level in a bid to secure a derogation that would allow it to reinstate the LFASS budget to its full amount of £65 million.

Given a primary objective of LFASS support is the prevention of land abandonment, the case put together for derogation demonstrates a need for continuity of LFASS payments at current levels in order to ensure continued agricultural activity in remoter and more disadvantaged areas.

Without such support, many farmers and crofters have already indicated their intentions to de-stock, which would lead to "significant adverse impacts" in many of Scotland’s more challenging locations, NFU Scotland says.

In late August, members of the union's LFA committee met with Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Fergus Ewing to relay the importance of these payments.

The committee urged Scottish Government to explore any solution to make up any enforced shortfall in LFASS payments.

NFU Scotland President, Andrew McCornick said: “While confirmation of the cut for 2019 is no surprise, it is nevertheless a massive body blow for LFA producers having just come through an unprecedented period of physical and financial challenges that resulted in some throwing in the towel and left many on the brink and short of confidence.

“The net result of cuts to LFASS, unless reversed, will be a further demise of our more extensive livestock sectors; the red meat sector in general; the Scotch brand it underpins and the risk of yet more agricultural land abandonment in some quarters.

“LFASS payments provide a vital financial boost to those who are trying forge a living out of some of the hardest land in the country.”

Mr McCornick added: “For them to lose out on any of this support would not only be devastating for their businesses but also for the natural environments which they tend to.”