Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf has been forced to promise to return £61million in agricultural spending after the SNP came under fire for “missing” the vital allocation.
Speaking to the National Union of Famers in Scotland, Yousaf pledged to return the money ring-fenced for the agricultural sector.
Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Holyrood had capitalised on the situation by confronting SNP Ministers over the cut.
It also caused consternation among farmers north of the border.
Humza Yousaf pledged to return the money
Writing on Farming Forum, one person said: “They will just blame Westminster for not giving them enough money to cover what they p****d up the wall on vanity projects like vastly over-spec ferries and the bottle return scheme that nobody was ready for.”
Another wrote: “As usual, politicians can’t give a straight answer. Where has £61million disappeared to? Where has it gone and how do they justify it?”
A third wrote: “It’s misleading to say this money is ‘missing’, its not as if the Scottish Agriculture Dept has been hacked and had £61million nicked out of its account.
“It’s a budget cut. The SNP Government cut the agriculture budget last year, and plan to do the same again this year.”
In a scathing reply, another user said: “The money will never be seen again it will have been redirected towards council tax freezes that were unfunded more than likely.
The Scottish farming sector was furious about the situation concerning the allocation
“The hypocrisy of mentioning brexit at any chance from the cult that would have had no access to Europe had they got their dream/wish in 2014.
“The sooner the Scottish Parliament is disbanded the better for Scottish society as it is just another tax on the people who contribute to society.”
Yousaf changed tact on agricultural funding after receiving the furious response from farmers.
He said: “I will emphasise it as much as I can – the full £61million will absolutely be returned to the portfolio.
“It will be fully returned to support you and your members as part of future budgets.
Humza Yousaf’s SNP colleagues also faced a backlash in Holyrood
“I can’t deny or pretend that we’re not facing the most difficult financial constraints we’ve ever had to deal with.
“People think that we take these decisions lightly, but we absolutely don’t.”
Despite pledging more support, the SNP’s recent budget revealed the agriculture sector will see cuts of £10million in other pillar one payments, £2.8million in business development and over £30million in forestry.
Opposition MSPs capitalised on Yousaf’s speech to highlight the chaos and alarm the situation had inflicted on farmers north of the border.
Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary Rachael Hamilton said: “Humza Yousaf used his so-called ‘announcement’, that farmers are to receive similar subsidies to what they are receiving now, as a way of painting over the cracks that his SNP Government are causing the industry.”
The Tory MSP added: “He had the perfect opportunity during his speech to announce the return of the remaining £46 million to the Scottish agriculture budget.
Farmers show their Aberdeen Angus bulls during the judging at Stirling Bull Sales
“Instead, Humza Yousaf tried to pull the wool over the eyes of farmers and crofters by refusing to give a timescale because he shamefully sees the industry as an easy target.”
Conservative colleague Ed Mountain, himself a farmer, also said: “Farmers… will rightly have been left feeling completely underwhelmed by Humza Yousaf’s hapless speech that failed to address a range of key issues concerning the industry.”
Holyrood hosted a major debate in December following a drastic cut of £28million from the farming budget.
Hamilton, who was among the Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament to slam the SNP, was joined by Labour and Liberal Democrat MSPs.
Michael Marra, Labour MSP said: “In this budget the SNP-Green Government is asking Scots to pay more for less and using dodgy accounting to hide swingeing cuts.”
Ex-Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie also demanded to know on behalf of farmers when the £28million cut and the missing £61million would be restored.
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