Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pledging to “change things for the better” for Scotland’s farmers – starting with a funding boost of more than £200 million for the industry north of the border.
As well as an announcement that £160 million of European convergence funding will go to Scottish farmers that was contained in this week’s spending review, he also promised an £51.4 million of new money over the next two years.
The funding was announced as the UK Government confirmed it would work to ensure cash for farmers is fairly allocated across the whole of the UK, and that the industry will be ready for a “prosperous future” outside of the European Union.
For too long, Scottish farmers have been given a poor deal by the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, which is why we are taking this opportunity to change things for the better
Those are key recommendations from Lord Bew’s review of farm funding, which is published on Friday.
Mr Johnson, who is in Aberdeenshire to meet local farmers, said: “For too long, Scottish farmers have been given a poor deal by the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, which is why we are taking this opportunity to change things for the better.
“I made a pledge to resolve the historic funding gap for Scottish farmers and delivering on this promise has been a priority since I became Prime Minister.
“Today’s announcement was the first step in making sure future funding is fairly allocated across the UK, taking into account the unique farming environments in Scotland.
“Once we are out of the EU, we will have a historic opportunity to introduce new schemes to support farmers and we will make sure that Scottish farmers get a fairer deal.”
Scottish Tories have said the announcement that Scotland is to receive the £160 million convergence funding comes as a result of lobbying by their MPs but Scottish ministers have also been raising the issue with the UK Government.
And Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, has insisted the money should have been given to farmers and crofters in Scotland in 2016.
“Three years too late, the cash is coming to Scotland,” he said.
Meanwhile SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said: “It was a Tory government who stolen tens of millions of European cash from the pockets of Scottish farmers.
“Boris Johnson is a thief returning to the scene of the crime.
“In doing so, the Prime Minister is reminding voters across the North East how disastrous his Brexit plans will be with experts predicting Aberdeen will be the worst hit city in the whole of the UK.”
However Scottish Secretary Alister Jack hailed the £211.4 million funding for farmers as a “brilliant double boost”.
He added: “I’m absolutely delighted by this result and know our hard working farmers across Scotland will welcome it warmly.
“Leaving the EU will give us an historic opportunity to tailor support better to Scotland’s unique farming environment.
“This is something I’ve lobbied for as a backbench MP and will continue to pursue as Scotland Secretary.”
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick described the money as being the “largest funding uplift for the sector in recent memory”.
He stated: “Securing a fair agricultural funding settlement that recognised the flaws in the historic approach has been a priority for NFU Scotland.
“We thank Lord Bew for undertaking this review and his conclusions on how agricultural funding should be allocated.”
But shadow Scottish secretary, Lesley Laird said: “Boris Johnson’s disastrous plan for a no-deal Brexit will be calamitous for Scottish farming.
“It will create a crisis in seasonal farm work and NFU Scotland has previously warned his plans could mean tariffs on exports of up to 65% on beef and 46% on lamb.
“This Prime Minister is no friend to Scottish agriculture and he should do what Labour and businesses the length and breadth of the country are telling him to do – stop playing games and take no deal off the table.”