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Farming investment deterred by uncertainty over agriculture payments – Lib Dems

The Lib Dems say the farming sector needs immediate relief (Andrew Milligan/PA)
The Lib Dems say the farming sector needs immediate relief (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Investment in farming is being deterred by the Scottish Government’s failure to deliver a new agriculture payments framework, Alex Cole-Hamilton has said.

Speaking ahead of a visit to Lauriston farm in Edinburgh, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader said the industry needs immediate relief amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Mr Cole-Hamilton’s visit follows the #FoodNeedsAFarmer rally outside the Scottish Parliament last week, where industry experts urged more support ahead of a forthcoming Agriculture Bill.

Scottish Liberal Democrats Autumn Conference
Alex Cole-Hamilton said farmers need urgent support (Lesley Martin/PA)

On Tuesday, Rural Affairs and Islands Secretary Mairi Gougeon pledged new conditionality for future payments to help the sector – but faced criticism over a “lack of clarity” in the announcement.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “What is clear to me is that the Scottish Government’s failure to deliver a fresh agriculture framework is deterring investment and innovation and undermining confidence within the sector.

“Farmers feel like the deck is stacked against them. Even when the Government makes big promises, the reality never stacks up.

“Let me give an example of the sleight of hand that farmers have got used to from the SNP: ministers announced with great fanfare that agriculture support payments for the year would be delivered early.

“In practice, this only applied to a handful of payments, with many more farmers waiting as long, or in some cases even longer, than last year.

“Even if they were delivered early, these payments are no substitute for the urgent clarity needed on future funding and policy.”