THE SCOTTISH Executive grant which assists farmers establishing short-rotation coppice willow or poplar as an energy crop, could be increased, it has been announced.

Currently the Scottish Forestry Grants Scheme offers a grant of £600/ha, plus additional funding to cover other costs such as ground preparation and fencing.

But, subject to EU approval, this could be increased to an all-inclusive flat rate of £1000/ha – the same as in England. For Scottish growers though, this grant would be conditional on demonstration of a supply contract with an end-user, according to National Farmers Union Scotland.

“This move is good news for Scottish farmers who deserve a level playing field with their English counterparts,” said environment and land use committee chairman, George Lawrie.

But while he believes the change will help create a new market for farmers looking to diversify or alter their production, much more still needs to be done to encourage the use of renewable energy.

“We are more than capable of producing our own biofuels and reducing our reliance on oil but there is still a long way to go.”

It is expected that EU approval will be granted in October, at which point the grant will become open for applications.

Further information can be found at the Forestry Commission Conservancy website, www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland