Minister backs Bute dairy farm support

Dairy cattle grazing on the grassy slopes at the south end of Bute.
Dairy cattle grazing on the grassy slopes at the south end of Bute.

Scotland’s transport and islands minister has given his backing in principle to government support with transport costs to help Bute’s under-pressure dairy farmers.

Derek Mackay MSP met the island’s dairy farmers in Rothesay on Monday to discuss ways of supporting the sector both on Bute and on Gigha.

The meeting took place against the backdrop of an announcement by First Milk - the co-operative of which all Bute’s dairy farmers are members - that it was to cut the price it pays to Bute producers by 1.2 pence per litre from June 1 due to the high cost of transporting milk toth e mainland for processing.

Subject to the money required being found, the government will provide half the cost of the ferry fares for First Milk’s tankers until September.

But the vice-president of NFU Scotland, who also attended Monday’s talks, said that finding the cash to meet that commitment - a sum believed to be around £35,000 - remained a stumbling block.

Andrew McCornick said: “We welcome Mr Mackay’s support in principle for putting temporary measures in place to provide half of the cost of ferry fares for First Milk tankers until the planned review period in September.

“However, it is clear that the stumbling block will be finding the required funding in order to bridge this gap, believed to be in the region of £35,000. NFUS will therefore continue discussions with Mr Mackay and the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead in the hope of securing this vital funding to part-remedy the increasingly desperate situation for dairy producers in Bute and Gigha.

“There will be ongoing frustration amongst milk producers on these islands that this matter remains unresolved and our dialogue with Ministers will start again tomorrow with renewed vigour.”