In reply to Ian Scott’s letter “Cuts are not inevitable”, I would like to clarify the situation with regard to the council’s support for agriculture.
Our climatic constraints, coupled with the historic system of Common Agricultural Policy support, leaves the industry in Shetland operating at a significant disadvantage to mainland producers. The fertiliser grants to which Mr Scott refers are part of a package of measures which the council operates in an attempt to redress that disadvantage.
This commitment is very much valued by the industry. The payments are restricted to the agricultural de minimis limit of 7,500 euros over a three-year period, and many producers are unable to claim anything like that sum of money.
It is also my understanding that the agricultural budget has over the past few years been reduced from £1 million per annum to £400,000. It would seem that agriculture is already playing its part in helping the SIC balance its books, and that councillors should resist making any further cuts to that budget.
Through my work with the Scottish Crofting Federation I have regular contact with SIC councillors, officials and members of the community who voluntarily give their time and effort to benefit all within Shetland agriculture.
There have been some well-documented disagreements and some pretty robust debates. However, throughout that time I have always been convinced that everyone involved was acting in what they believed to be the best interests of Shetland agriculture.
Mr Scott is quick to criticise and slow to offer any solution to the present financial predicament. Accusations regarding “crofting councillors” are unfair and unjustified, and to call into question the integrity of Da Flea, of all people, shows a lack of judgment. His veiled threat to what he sees as “handsome subsidies” should alert all crofters to the dangers of electing this “prospective councillor”.