‘A lobbying success’: Scottish farmers to continue receiving most government subsidies for food production

The National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) has celebrated ‘a lobbying success’ as the first minister confirms Scottish farmers are to continue to receive most of their existing subsidies for growing food, rather than environmental measures.

At least 70% of future farm funding in Scotland will continue to closely reflect the existing direct payment regime, Hamza Yousaf, the Scottish first minister told farmers at the NFUS’ 2024 conference last week.

As it stands, the Scottish government plans to end the EU-legacy Basic Payment Scheme payments in 2026 and introduce a four-tier farm support scheme in 2027. This is set to see funding split into four tiers with particular nature and climate conditions attached to payments.

“I can announce today that the funding for Tiers 1 and 2 – the tiers that will reflect most closely the direct payment regime, albeit with conditions built in from the start – will constitute at least 70% of the overall funding envelope to support farming, crofting and land management from 2027,” Yousaf said.

The remaining 30% of the farm funding is due to be for targeted measures like creating wetlands or restoring peatlands, according to a BBC report.

The move sets Scotland on a different trajectory to England, where farmers are set to be paid for delivering environmental measures under Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes, with food production itself not due to be directly subsidised. 

In his speech, Yousaf said that farmers will be expected to deliver “far more for nature and climate in return for this funding”. 

He continued: “You will challenge us, rightly, to ask us to work with you to help ensure our land is more sustainable. I promise you we will do that. And I will also ensure we will admit when we haven't got things right. 

“[...] What we need from you is ensuring that production is sustainable as possible and reducing carbon as much as possible. Everyone who wants to stay involved in beef production in Scotland has to do their bit. The government has to do our bit, and we need you to do yours, which you are doing - but we'll always keep pushing to see what more can be done. 

“So that's why we've been clear that when it comes to support for production, that will come with conditions attached. In the future we'll have discussions and co-design those conditions with you. But unlike other parts of the UK, this [Scottish National Party] government remains absolutely committed to active farming, to providing direct payments for farmers and crofters, and ensuring there are absolutely no cliff-edges as we transition to a different support framework.”

Responding at the event, NFUS president Martin Kennedy said: “We welcome the first minister delivering clarity on future levels of support to be delivered under Scotland’s future agricultural policy.

“Equally important was the first minister’s recognition of the economic importance of our sector and his stated ambition that he wants to see our production of high-quality food and drink grow. That needs farming and crofting to be at the heart of the new agricultural policy and this Tier 1 and Tier 2 funding announcement is a lobbying success for NFU Scotland.”