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Pressure on government over crofting subsidies

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott on his visit to Shetland Farm Dairies to discuss changes to government subsidies.

THE SCOTTISH Government is facing renewed criticism of its treatment of crofters and farmers over changes to how it classifies agricultural land following a warning that the future of Shetland’s livestock mart is in doubt.

On Friday, Shetland Livestock Marketing Group (SLMG) chairman Ronnie Eunson told Shetland News that sudden changes which devalued land would reduce subsidy levels by up to 90 per cent.

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With the government already under fire for delaying Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments, Eunson said the greatest threat was posed by the downgrading of good agricultural land to rough grazing.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott says he is worried that the new CAP payment scheme may reduce the amount of government support isles crofters receive.

“Every part of Shetland agriculture is affected by these new CAP payments,” Scott said. “Shetland [Farm Dairies] is an essential part of the local industry. Local milk is a high quality product that people want to buy.

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“But Shetland’s milk producers also have sheep and cattle. So their business depends on these new CAP payments.

“The marts chairman has illustrated that the cut to area payments for crofters devalues land across Shetland. That reduces the overall value of the Shetland agriculture industry.

“It is also very worrying that Shetland crofters have had their expected payments cut by a Scottish Government U-turn. How are croft businesses meant to judge cash flow when the government tell them one thing and do another?

On Monday the MSP was due to meet Eunson and management of Shetland Farm dairies, the collective of milk producers in the islands.

“I want to listen to the concerns today and then take these important points to government ministers later this week in Edinburgh,” he continued.

“Crofting is the backbone of Shetland life. The islands’ traditional industries matter. So for crofting to prosper we need a government who is on our side. Many Shetland crofters doubt that is the case.”

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