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Funding Changes Could Lead to Better Scheme Access

NFU Scotland believes the Scottish Government announcement on funding changes for agri-environment projects should open the door to easier access for all small scale applications to the Rural Priorities scheme – something which NFUS has been arguing for since 2009.

Scottish Government has announced a new approval process for selected Rural Priorities projects related to nature conservation areas. The fast-track approval process, which comes into effect from May 1, 2011, will apply to agri-environment projects worth up to £50,000 in Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Natura Sites, and will allow people to apply without having to wait for funding rounds.

The downside for many potential farming applicants is the decision to temporarily suspend the management of hedgerows option in the next Rural Priorities funding round, allowing spend to be targeted towards other agri-environment projects.

In response, NFU Scotland's Head of Rural Policy Jonnie Hall said:

"The decision to suspend applications related to hedgerows is corrective action to address budgetary pressures on the scheme, as well as a perceived lack of targeting around the agri-environment measures within Rural Priorities.

"Hedging is clearly a very popular measure and its suspension will be a disappointment to many potential applicants even though it clearly delivers on the scheme's environmental objectives.  Whilst we understand why Scottish Government has taken the decision on hedgerows, we must seek to ensure that similar steps are not deemed necessary in the future.

"The positive message though is the recognition by Scottish Government that small scale applications to the scheme can be treated in a different manner from large scale projects.   If we can introduce a fast-track process for agri-environment schemes under £50k in this manner, then Scottish Government could introduce a similar fast track for all other small-scale applications to Rural Priorities. 

“Such a step across the board would dramatically improve accessibility for all to the scheme and cut out some of the frustrating bureaucracy that still surrounds the whole application and assessment process.  We first argued for changes to small scale applications to be introduced when we responded to the Cook Review of Scottish rural development in 2009 and this announcement could bring better accessibility to Rural Priorities a step closer.”  Ends

NOTES TO EDITORS

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 53/11


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