The Scottish government wants to hear views on how it should support rural areas from 2014-20 as it draws up a new Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) for the period.
This will provide support for economic, environmental and social measures, including farm modernisation, support for forestry, less favoured areas, agri-environment schemes and farm diversification. Other business development, rural tourism and community groups will also benefit.
Fourteen road shows are being held with the next one on Tuesday 7 May at Perth Race Course. The tour ends on Wednesday 5 June at the Shetland Museum, Lerwick.
The current SRDP would deliver £1.2bn of support to rural Scotland, said rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead but referring to the next round of support he said: “Unfortunately the budget will be tighter than previously as the UK government has not argued strongly enough for a fairer share of funding for Scotland in the CAP reform negotiations.”
Accessibility to the limited funding likely to be available through the next round must be a key consideration when drawing up the plans, said NFU Scotland.
“The uncertainty created by CAP reform, in particular the move to an area-based payment system, means that the SRDP, notably LFASS, will play a greater role than ever in helping anchor vulnerable businesses operating in difficult economic and climatic conditions,” said NFU Scotland’s policy and the regions director, Jonnie Hall.
“The Scottish government must uphold the clear public commitment it made to LFASS when it was re-elected in 2011.
“The initial proposals being consulted upon are key to establishing the structure of the next SRDP, and critically the accessibility of measures and funding across Scotland’s varied farming and crofting landscape.
“The architecture and processes of the next must programme must remove the well documented flaws of the current rural priorities set-up and create much simpler and open access to practical measures across all farm types.
“The role of farming and crofting remains pivotal for sustainable economic growth, flourishing ecosystems and landscapes, and thriving rural communities, so clear priorities have to be set, especially with tighter Pillar 2 funding.”
The SRDP will be co-funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Scottish government.
To access the consultation go to http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/05/9633