Policy & Lobbying
SRDP
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.

Environmental Co-operaton Action Fund

Scottish Land & Estates has produced an information sheet on the Environmental Cooperation Action Fund (ECAF).

The Environmental Cooperation Action Fund (ECAF) is a new £10million scheme within the 2014-20 Scottish Rural Development Programme. The first application round will open on October 6, 2015 and close on January 15, 2016. There will also be rounds in 2016 and 2017.

 

Scottish Land & Estates responds to SRDP proposals

This week sees the end of the Scottish Government’s consultation on the next SRDP and Scottish Land & Estates has set out its pragmatic position that although the proposals are not forward-looking and aimed at delivering real rural development, the context of the changes to direct farm support mean that the Scottish Government should be cautious about changing too much in the SRDP at the same time. 
 
Andrew Midgley, Head of Policy said: 
 
“Scottish Land & Estates wants to see the SRDP support rural development in the widest sense so that rural areas can be supported to become dynamic and prosperous places with growing and vibrant rural populations, buoyant local economies and a high quality environment. From this perspective the proposals for the next SRDP are disappointing because the impression from the headline illustrative budget is that it effectively supports the status quo rather than providing the platform for proper forward-looking rural development. 
 
“However, Scottish Land & Estates acknowledges the changes that are about to take place with regard to direct payments and so accepts the need to maintain an element of stability in the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme in the medium term. Scottish Land & Estates believes that it would not be wise to change LFASS at the same time as direct payments because of the potential impact on our farming businesses.
 
“Consequently, Scottish Land & Estates adopts a pragmatic stance and accepts that the Scottish Government should follow the course it is proposing at present, but review the budgets, especially LFASS, in the light of the impact of the changes in Pillar 1, at the earliest opportunity. LFASS is an extremely blunt tool for supporting rural development.
 
“It is therefore important that the Scottish Government allows itself sufficient flexibility to move money between budgets in the programme without the need to submit formal programme modifications to the European Commission. Such processes take time and potentially limit the Scottish Government’s flexibility in how the programme is managed.
 
“It is also critically important that we develop a much better evidence base about our rural areas and how they are changing in order to develop a more targeted rural development policy and programme.  
 
On the Budget, Andrew Midgley said: 
 
“Scottish Land & Estates supported the Scottish Government in its proposal to transfer 9.5% of the pillar 1 national ceiling to the SRDP. We did so because while many of our members would have liked the full 15% transfer, it would have also compounded the impact of the changes in the direct support regime that will be felt by farmers. Scottish Land & Estates took the view that the current uncertainties surrounding direct support and the move to area payments warranted a degree of caution in transferring funds because we do not have a very clear picture of the precise consequences in terms of changes to support levels in different places and for different types of businesses. We did note, however, that the Scottish Government will have the ability to re-visit this decision in 2017, which could represent a useful opportunity to amend the Pillar 2 budget if necessary once the Scottish Government has a much better understanding of the implications of the move to area payments for the farming industry (taking into account the future changes involved in changing LFASS into ANC support). 
 
“80% of the budget is devoted to LFASS, agri-environment measures and forestry. This prioritisation is understandable. Scotland needs to do more to protect and enhance biodiversity and has set woodland creation targets that need support to be reached. Our more remote rural communities, within which farming plays a key role, are also fragile and need support. However, Scottish Land & Estates is somewhat disappointed at what appears to be a lack of vision for the next SRDP. Scottish Land & Estates wants to see the SRDP support rural development in the widest sense so that rural areas can be supported to become dynamic and prosperous places that contribute to the economy, but the impression from the headline illustrative budget is that the next SRDP effectively supports the status quo rather than providing the platform for proper forward-looking rural development.
 
“While it is important to continue to support LFASS (in order to maintain stability during the period of change in Pillar 1), a small amount of change to the LFASS budget in the short-term would free up funds that could have a significant impact in other parts of the programme, especially small rural businesses. 
 
“Scottish Land & Estates believes that simply maintaining a flat forestry budget is a potentially a missed opportunity. Recent figures suggest that the suggested budget of £36m/yr for forestry is not sufficient to deliver against the Scottish Government’s own targets. It is also very disappointing that the Scottish Government is choosing to stop funding access options.
 
On the proposed changes to the SRDP processes, Andrew Midgley said:
 
“The proposed changes to the structure of the application process are welcome. The Scottish Government appears to have listened to feedback on the current programme and is attempting to find ways of improving the process. 
 

Rural support schemes to continue

Scottish Government steps up to ensure best deal for farmers despite EU delays.

Essential EU funding for farmers which was due to end in 2013 will continue for another year, the Rural Affairs Secretary has announced.

Delays in Europe passing necessary legislation meant some streams of support faced a year-long gap until the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) can come into effect in 2015.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has confirmed the Scottish Government has stepped in to ensure Scottish farmers will continue to receive support in 2014.

Direct (Pillar 1) payments to farmers worth approximately £0.5 billion will go ahead as normal and as much as possible of the £1.2 billion Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) will continue next year.

Mr Lochhead said:

“The Scottish Government is working relentlessly to ensure our farmers get the support they need and a fair deal from Europe. That is why we are acting quickly, using the powers and funds available to us, to protect essential subsidies for our farmers and ensure we continue to protect our natural environment.

“In the face of an 11 per cent real terms cut to the Scottish Government’s budget imposed by Westminster, I have protected Scottish Government funding for rural development. I have allocated about £70 million from my portfolio’s draft budget in 2014-15 - compared to £66 million this financial year - which will mitigate as far as possible the impact of EU delays. In the coming weeks and months, my officials will write to those who currently receive support under these schemes setting out our plans in more detail and what they should do next.

“Under current European CAP transition regulations, however, not all SRDP schemes can continue which is why the Scottish Government and other Governments across Europe are continuing to press hard for a full roll over of the Rural Development programme in 2014.

“We are also continuing to argue for a fair share for the UK’s CAP allocation for our farmers. Despite the action the Scottish Government is taking to maintain support, Scottish farmers will be hundreds of millions of euros worse off than farmers in other countries over this CAP period due to the reduced CAP budget, the failure in particular to secure extra rural development funding, and other concessions agreed by UK Government.

“It is clear that decisions about Scotland are best taken by the people who live here. Only with independence will Scotland have the powers it needs to secure a fair deal for Scottish farmers.”

The main elements of the transition arrangements for 2014 are as follows:

 

  • ‘Pillar 1’ of the CAP (direct payments to farmers) – the current system based on Single Farm Payments will essentially remain in place for 2014, with the new system starting in 2015.
  • The Less Favoured Area Support Scheme ,which provides support to farm business operating in remote and fragile areas, will continue in 2014 - with a 2015 payment date as normal.
  • Agri-environment contracts (including organic agreements) that were due to expire on December 31, 2013 will be extended for another year. About 1,000 business will be contacted in the coming weeks by Scottish Government officials.
  • Forestry payments – Woodland creation and woodland management projects will be able to go ahead in 2014-15 under contracts being approved up to the end of this year.
  • The main elements of the Crofting Counties Agricultural Grant Scheme (CCAGS) will continue under a state aid scheme although continued funding for drainage schemes will depend on the final transition regulations agreed by the European Commission.
  • The Scottish Government is making a strong case for transition regulations to allow continued support for Scotland’s LEADER scheme, which has invested around £60 million to support rural communities, and the EU-funded £10 million Food and Drink scheme. A decision is expected from Europe in November.
  •  There will be no new Land Managers Options (LMO) applications for 2014 as this type of non-competitive support will not be permitted under the new regulatory framework put in place by the European Commission. Instead, the Scottish Government is working on options to ensure the new SRDP in 2015 will provide effective and accessible support to farmers in Scotland.
 

EU failing to target rural funds at worthy projects

Member States are failing to target EU funding designed to create new jobs in rural areas at the worthiest projects meaning they have had only a limited impact, according to a new report* by the European Court of Auditors (ECA). The Luxembourg-based Court said countries were allocating spending according to demand, rather than picking rural diversification projects that generated the most value for money. Published yesterday, the ECA’s special report entitled ‘Have the Member States & the Commission achieved value for money with the measures for diversifying the economy?’ focuses on spending programmes in 6 countries – Cz, Fr, It, Pol, Swe & UK. Planned EU expenditure for rural diversification measures for the 2007-2013 period totalled €5 billion, with a further €2bn earmarked from national budgets. “The overarching priority of job creation was not properly targeted”, the ECA said. The Court also criticised the evaluation system for failing to justify the effectiveness of the measures. Excessive administration burdens on applicants & payment delays were among other flaws singled out by the auditors. Examples of failed projects in the report include the funding of a new wine tasting room in France although such facilities already existed & a school sports programme in Poland that did not fulfil the stated aim of attracting new tourists. The ECA calls on Member States to draw up tighter evaluation criteria & make clear why the programmes should fulfil their goals. Targets for job creation should be realistic & clearly monitored, the auditors add. The report calls on the EU’s executive to ensure countries have effective systems for checks on reasonableness of costs.

In response to the comments, the EU’s executive says that “lessons have been learned which will be applied for the next programming period 2014–2020 especially through guidance within the programming process”. But the Commission stresses that rural development funding is not only designed to create jobs but also to ensure diversification of activities & to improve rural life.

*See http://www.eca.europa.eu/Lists/ECADocuments/SR13_06/SR13_06_EN.pdf  

 

RPAC Update

It is hoped that the Scottish Government will soon confirm the timing of the next RPAC(s) for Axis 1 (business development) and Axis 3 (rural enterprise and rural communities).  The February 2011 RPACs fully committed Axes 1 and 3 funding for financial year 2011 - 2012. Future RPAC(s) will therefore only be considering those projects with a start date beyond April 2012.

Applicants are reminded that from 1 May 2011, applications for agri-environment projects up to £50,000 on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and Natura Sites will be considered under an ongoing approval process. Applicants for these projects do not need to wait for the September RPAC.

As previously published, applicants with forestry only proposals can apply under an ongoing approval process and do not need to wait for the September RPAC.

As announced in March, the Axis 2 Rural Priorities option Management of Hedgerows has been suspended until further notice. You can however apply for the Extended Hedges option, which remains open. further information is available from the Scottish Government

 

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