Farmers to rally at Holyrood

Scotland’s farmers and crofters are to rally at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh next week (Thursday 10 March) to highlight to Scotland’s politicians the deepening cash crisis in Scotland’s countryside.

Young farmers, new entrants to the sector and all businesses supplying farmers with goods and services are invited to join them.

With prices for virtually every farm commodity on the floor and having endured the wettest winter on record, Scottish farmers and crofters want all Scottish MSPs ahead of the May election to understand that the farming industry’s position as the cornerstone of the whole rural community is under threat.

The key driver behind the current crash crisis is Scottish Government’s failure to deliver support payments to farmers and crofters because of its £180 million investment in a flawed IT delivery system that is not fit for purpose.

To date, only £100 million of support under basic Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) schemes has been paid out from a total budget of almost £400 million. The knock-on delay in making Less Favoured Areas payments to hill farmers and crofters will see a further £65 million tranche of support delayed, leaving a gaping hole in the rural economy of £365 million.

Along with poor commodity prices, that has also created a cash flow crisis that has ramifications for those businesses who have farmers as their main customer and challenges the confidence of new entrants and young farmers to enter the sector.

NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie said: “The gaping hole in the Scottish rural economy is of Scottish Government’s making and, with parliament closing down on 24 March ahead of the Scottish elections in May, they have a three week window in which to turn this disastrous situation around.”

“Our Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead has to finish what he started and deliver payments to farmers now. If that requires intervention by the First Minister to deliver then she would have the agricultural communities backing.

“Although this is the busiest time of year, with calving, lambing, sowing and spring work all underway, we will be bringing members from across Scotland, young farmers, new entrants and representatives of the supply trade to Holyrood next Thursday (10 March) to impress upon all MSPs the damage that payment delivery failure is doing and the urgent need to resolve this matter.

“Farmers are recipients of support but that money very quickly leaves bank accounts – it is used to pay wages, invest in business and secure the feed, seed, fertiliser and machinery needed to ensure Scotland continues to grow and rear the raw materials for our food and drink sector.

“The huge funding gap in the rural economy means that banks and the supply trade are currently providing the credit facilities to the majority of farm businesses. That is unacceptable, particularly when the mess is of Scottish Government’s creation.

“We want our MSPs to recognise the scale of the problem, the potential impact on jobs in the wider rural economy and the need for Scottish Government to take urgent and drastic action to resolve the IT and payment issue.

“Various MSP meetings are already taking place across the country in the coming few days but we want to build on that by bringing farmers and crofters to Holyrood next week.

“The decision to ask farmers to come off farm at this time of year is not one that we take lightly but such is the seriousness of the situation that we feel it merits taking our concerns directly to the politicians.

“All politicians will receive another briefing from NFU Scotland this afternoon, laying out our priorities and how we think payments can be delivered to all Scottish claimants in the coming weeks. The rural economy will be an important part of all election manifestos and we need politicians of all parties to show their mettle on this matter.”

Those attending are asked to gather at the Scottish Parliament at 11am. The rally will last one hour.