The action aims to highlight the deepening cash crisis in the countryside. Young farmers, new entrants to the sector and businesses supplying farmers with goods and services were invited to join them.
With prices for farm commodities on the floor and having endured the wettest winter on record, Scottish farmers and crofters want all Scottish MSPs ahead of May’s election to understand the farming industry’s position as the cornerstone of the rural community is under threat.
The key driver behind the current crash crisis, according to NFU Scotland, is Scottish Government’s failure to deliver support payments to farmers and crofters because of its £180 million investment in a flawed IT delivery system.
To date, only £100 million of support under basic Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) schemes has been paid out from a total budget of almost £400 million.
NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie said: “The gaping hole in the Scottish rural economy is of Scottish Government’s making and, with parliament closing down on 24 March ahead of the Scottish elections in May, they have a three week window in which to turn this disastrous situation around.
“Our Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead has to finish what he started and deliver payments to farmers now. If that requires intervention by the First Minister to deliver then she would have the agricultural communities backing.
“Although this is the busiest time of year, with calving, lambing, sowing and spring work all underway, we will be bringing members from across Scotland, young farmers, new entrants and representatives of the supply trade to Holyrood next Thursday (10 March) to impress upon all MSPs the damage that payment delivery failure is doing and the urgent need to resolve this matter.
“Farmers are recipients of support but that money very quickly leaves bank accounts – it is used to pay wages, invest in business and secure the feed, seed, fertiliser and machinery needed to ensure Scotland continues to grow and rear the raw materials for our food and drink sector.
“The huge funding gap in the rural economy means banks and the supply trade are currently providing the credit facilities to the majority of farm businesses. That is unacceptable, particularly when the mess is of Scottish Government’s creation.
“We want our MSPs to recognise the scale of the problem, the impact on jobs in the wider rural economy and the need for Scottish Government to take urgent and drastic action to resolve the IT and payment issue.”