The Scottish Government must be bold in designing the next Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) in order to make the most of limited budgets, says NFU Scotland.

In its response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the SRDP 2014-2020, the Union endorses the Programme’s crucial role in the rural economy and advises on ways in which it can fulfil this role in a focused way. Importantly, in addition to the schemes themselves, the way in which the SRDP is administered will be key.

NFU Scotland’s Director of Policy and the Regions, Jonnie Hall said:

“While attention has focused on the CAP deal struck last week, the Scottish Government's consultation on its initial proposals for the next SRDP will also be hugely significant in shaping the future of Scottish farming and its pivotal role in the prosperity and vitality of rural Scotland.

“There is a clear need to make the most of a new SRDP, despite inevitable funding limitations: that means redesigning its architecture and improving its application and administration processes to allow easier access for a broader swathe of farms and crofts. It is those farms and crofts that are best placed to deliver rural development gains, so the emphasis has to shift to finding smarter ways of maximising their vital contribution.

“In our submission, we have set out a very clear approach:

“At the heart of all SRDP  activity is the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme, whose  importance  can  not  be  underestimated. LFASS must retain primacy in the next SRDP; in fact its significance is likely to increase as it  anchors  businesses  which will undergo most upheaval in the move to an area-based payment system under Pillar 1.

“A future Areas of Natural Constraint scheme to succeed LFASS must build on existing principles and develop further options to support farming systems in our disadvantaged areas.

“Above that, we have set out a three-level, three-theme structure to offer a range of entry points, funding levels and measures for every type of farm business.

“This would allow access to relatively small amounts of funding that would make a big difference for many existing farm business set-ups and more significant funding for more business-changing projects.

“With limited funding available, the three levels would be more responsive to targeted, local priorities, but there would still be scope for bigger investments to meet national objectives.

“Practical measures would run through three themes - business development and new entrants, input efficiency for climate change and water quality, and biodiversity and landscapes. Physical and financial resilience would be common throughout to help farmers and crofters weather the challenges of increased market volatility and more demanding weather patterns.

“Above all, our approach would make for more accessible measures that are in turn more aligned to existing farm systems, and not the other way around. That also puts the farmer or crofter as the applicant at the heart of rural development policy.

“If the application processes and the actions to be funded are married up to the practicalities of farming with clear local and national priorities, that will contribute to getting the most effective use of limited funding.”

“The competitive Rural Priorities and non-competitive LMOs must be revised if they are going to be put to best use. Rural Priorities should retain the ability to bring about so-called ‘transformational change’ in a farm business, but the scheme should be easier to apply to and should recognise the multiple benefits a successful application might bring about, rather than scoring projects according to isolated criteria. Uptake of the non-competitive LMOs has not been satisfactory and cannot remain in its current form. LMO options must become more relevant and a larger budget for individual LMOs should be considered so that they have a greater impact.

“There  is  no doubting the practical, administrative and financial demands that  are  put  on  the  SRDP, however, in addition to NFUS fighting for an uplift in the overall SRDP budget, the Union believes that straightforward, practical  changes  can  be  made to the Programme in order to make it more effective,  more  accessible  and  to  help  it deliver on its wide-ranging intentions.”

Date Published:

News Article No.: 91/13

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