Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston has accused the SNP of letting down rural Scotland as MSPs debated the Scottish Budget.
Speaking during the Stage 1 debate on the Budget Bill, Mr Halcro Johnston, the Scottish Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, said that the SNP proposals to cut the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme by twenty percent, its underspend of the Agricultural Transformation Programme, and a near-halving of spending through the LEADER programme, painted a bleak picture for many people who relied upon the rural economy for a livelihood.
Speaking after the debate, the Scottish Conservative MSP, who comes from a farming background himself, said: “In challenging times like these, people who run businesses in rural areas like my own in the Highlands and Islands are looking to the Scottish Government to listen to their concerns and provide the necessary support they need."
“They are looking for direction and a strategy that helps to rebuild a rural economy which has taken such a tremendous hit from the pandemic, with parts of our tourism sector on its knees. Instead, they have received the cold shoulder from an SNP administration that rarely looks beyond the Central Belt and which has left vital parts of our economy unsupported."
“Their failure to help is certainly not owing to any lack of resources as millions of pounds in support have found their way to Holyrood to allocate. But too much of it remains sitting in Scottish Government coffers in Edinburgh."
“All we are left with are warm words, while SNP ministers undermine some of agricultural sector’s vital capital investment schemes such as AECS, dip their hands into hard-won convergence funding, and pile on additional regulation."
“At a time when the UK Government is delivering unprecedented levels of business support through furloughing and support for the self-employed, we should expect more from an SNP Budget that fails to deliver for rural Scotland”.