The Scotland Rural Development Programme
(SRDP) is an outcome-driven programme that is designed to deliver transformational change in relation to competitiveness, environmental management and quality of life outcomes in Scotland’s rural and land-based sector.
The SRDP is delivered under the Common Agricultural Policy
and is co-financed by Europe and the Scottish Government. It includes measures to address economic and social goals as well as environmental measures and is delivering a great deal. It is injecting funding into rural areas that should result in tangible benefits to the rural environment and to rural communities.
Unfortunately, however, the SRDP suffered from a delayed start and has subsequently been criticised for being excessively complex and bureaucratic. Despite the best of intentions the SRDP appears to have become driven by the process rather than the outcome. In recognition of this the process has gradually been changed in an attempt to simplify it and encourage application.
Scottish Land & Estates continues to engage with the Scottish Government on members’ behalf through the SRDP Programme Monitoring Committee and is heavily involved in preliminary discussions about the future of the SRDP.
Scottish Land & Estates believes that the SRDP is an essential element of support to rural businesses and should have a strong role in future. In particular, Scottish Land & Estates believes that in future:
- There needs to be a greater degree of prioritisation and an acceptance of the probable consequence that less pressing activities will not be supported.
- The delivery of the programme should avoid slipping back into axes and concentrate on single outcomes, such as business development or environmental gains. The programme should operate in such a way that multiple benefits can be delivered at the same time.
- The SRDP could usefully be re-framed. Instead of compensating land managers for income foregone, a more constructive approach could be to reward them for what they deliver.
- The next SRDP should be implemented in a way that genuinely reflects different regional priorities.
- Smaller applications should be fast-tracked in an open-ended/continuous scheme, which should widen accessibility.
- There should be greater consistency and transparency in assessment and decision making with better feedback to applicants.
- There is a need for a more flexible and responsive process that acknowledges other issues such as the constraints associated with bank finance and planning consent etc.
- The current bias in the scoring system toward “new” facilities should be addressed so that existing businesses are not disadvantaged by the scoring system.