27 October 2000
Brussels OKs Scots hill plan
By Shelley Wright
SCOTLANDS 685 million rural development plan, which includes future support for hill farmers, has finally won formal approval in Brussels.
Ross Finnie, rural affairs minister, announced on Wednesday that the scheme had been given the go-ahead by the STAR committee in Brussels.
The EU Commission was now expected to rubber-stamp this approval within the coming days, he said.
I am delighted that our rural development plan has been unanimously approved by the STAR committee, said Mr Finnie.
He added that progress could now be made at home to ensure prompt payments to farmers from 01 January, 2001 when the new arrangements take effect.
There is absolutely no doubt that it has been hard work getting to this stage, but all along I was determined to fight hard to ensure the scheme properly reflected Scottish circumstances.
“That was far more important than getting quick approval to a scheme which would not have helped meet the needs of Scottish farmers, he said.
Schemes that will be rolled in to the new rural development plan include the agri-environment programme, organic aid and woodland grant schemes.
But it was the switch from livestock headage payments to area aid for those farming in the less favoured areas that caused the biggest headache in trying to secure EU approval.
Scottish NFU president Jim Walker was relieved that agreement with Europe had been reached at last.
It now remained to be seen how quickly the Scottish Executive could put in place all the details for LFA farms, including any land re-classification that might be needed.
An executive spokesman said guidance notes and new application forms would be sent to farmers in the coming weeks.
The executive remains confident that large-scale re-classification of land will not be needed.
Total funding in Scotland for the six years of the rural development plans lifespan will be around 685m, of which about 114m will come from farmers themselves through the cut in all direct support payments that will be introduced next year through “modulation”.
The balance will come from the Scottish Executive and EU Commission.