Scottish farmers owe more money to banks than at any time since records began in 1972, according to a report.
Outstanding loans to Scottish farms were more than £2.3 billion by the end of May, up £113 million (or 5%) on the previous period. Other finance, such as hire purchase agreements, family loans and other borrowing could account for a further £1.1 billion according to estimates.
Some commentators have questioned whether widely reported delays in farm payments by the Scottish Government have contributed to the figures, but Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing tried to put a positive spin on the figures: “It is vital that Scottish farmers can continue to access capital to invest in their businesses. These statistics show that banks are still lending to farmers, which is a sure sign of confidence in the sector,” he said.
“However, with many farmers relying on subsidies for a large part of their income, we must be wary of farmers getting into excessive and unmanageable debt.”
There is a similar pattern to agricultural borrowing in the rest of the UK, with figures from the Bank of England showing that in May 2017, the UK agricultural, field sports and forestry sector had an outstanding debt of £18.5 billion, up 57% since 2010.