§ Mr. Swinney
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the total level of bank borrowing by Scotland's farmers in each of the last 10 years; and what discussions he has had with the NFU and the Scottish clearing banks on this matter. 
§ Mr. Macdonald
The only comprehensive survey of bank lending to Scottish agriculture is conducted annually by the Scottish Office Agriculture, Environment and Fisheries Department. The results for the last ten years, in both current and at 1998 prices, are given in the following table.
Total advance to Scottish agriculture, 1989–98 £ million Advances Year (end-May) Current prices Real terms 1998 prices 1989 909 1,292 1990 888 1,150 1991 884 1,083 1992 895 1,050 1993 868 1,006 1994 893 1,009 1995 893 976 1996 941 1,006 1997 966 1,007 1998 1,064 1,064
As the table shows, bank borrowings, in real terms, are now lower than they were 8 to 10 years ago, as are real interest rates.
Ministers and officials meet the National Farmers Union of Scotland and the agricultural representatives of the four Scottish Clearing banks on a regular basis to discuss a variety of issues affecting Scottish farming including the level of bank borrowings. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State last met the Scottish NFU on 22 December 1998 while my noble Friend Lord Sewel last met them on 22 January 1999. Officials last met the banks on 25 January 1999.
From 1 July 1999 this will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.