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Farm Budgets 2024-25: Scotland

Volume 742: debated on Tuesday 19 December 2023

3. What recent discussions he has had with his Scottish counterpart on farm budgets for the financial year 2024-25. (900734)

A very merry Christmas, Mr Speaker. The Government guarantee to maintain the £2.4 billion annual budget for farmers across the UK for every year of this Parliament. As agriculture is devolved, it is ultimately for the Scottish Government to decide how to allocate that money to farming in Scotland.

The Minister will be aware of the frustration that is felt by many farmers and crofters in Scotland that the £33 million that was given to the Scottish Government for a specific purpose as part of the Bew review has been deferred hitherto. What will she do in future to ensure that where money is given for the express purpose of supporting Scottish agriculture, it is in fact used for that purpose?

The right hon. Member raises an excellent question. The SNP Government are yet to clarify when this ringfenced money will be returned. I hope they will do so this afternoon at the Budget.

May I echo your comments, Mr Speaker, with Christmas wishes for all the House staff, your staff and Members? The UK Government’s attempt to overhaul the EU subsidy scheme has left English farmers 50% worse off in cash terms than in 2020. While the Scottish Government have sought to protect our farmers’ payments, can the Minister guarantee that the UK Government will not try to undermine their payments and devolution by back-door use of the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020?

I note that the hon. Member did not answer my question, nor that of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) about when the ringfenced money will be returned.

Very good point, but I still maintain that the hon. Member needs to clarify that matter. It is up to the Scottish Government if they would like at any point to top up the amount that goes to Scottish farming. I encourage them to do so this afternoon at the Budget.

I do not think any Scottish farmer will be reassured by what the Minister has just said. I just said that the Scottish Government are protecting those farmers’ payments, while English farmers are losing out, as we know. What we do not have from the UK Government is detail on what they will be doing after 2025. If we had remained in the European Union, we would know that figure for farming subsidies so that the Scottish Government could make plans to help farmers plan ahead. Can the Minister apologise for that situation and guarantee that in the early months of next year we will have clarity on farming payments?

The UK Government have laid out plans for the agriculture transition in England that go beyond the current spending review, giving farmers increased certainty over policy and spending intent for years to come. The Scottish Government could decide to provide farmers in Scotland with similar certainty if they chose to do so.