Scotland’s rural development plan, which will run until 2020, has finally been given the green light by Brussels.
Scotland’s rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead said the plan, which equates to £1.3bn in support, was crucial for Scottish farming, so he was pleased it had been formally approved.
“This will enable to the Scottish government to begin approving applications and making payments on those schemes we have already opened to mitigate, as far as possible, the impact of delays in the European sign-off process,” he said.
NFU Scotland’s director of policy, Jonnie Hall, said the Scottish government’s decision to transfer 9.5% of Pillar 1 funds into the rural development pot, meant that access to Pillar 2 schemes was a priority.
“This £1.3bn programme is hugely important to Scottish farmers and crofters and will be needed to complement the direct support schemes in Pillar 1, where funds under the Basic Payment Scheme [BPS] are under pressure,” he said.
“While the plan was awaiting approval, Scottish government took the welcome decision to proceed with opening up important schemes for less favoured areas [LFAs], agri-environment and climate change, new entrants, crofting and young farmers.
“That means today’s announcement will change little for potential claimants but lifts the element of risk taken by the Scottish government.”
Mr Hall stressed that the continuation of the existing LFA scheme would be crucial to livestock producers in vulnerable areas and many would be looking at what the agri-environment package had to offer.
“Unfortunately, the difficulties experienced in applying online for BPS and the extended application period to 15 June creates an overlap with the window for agri-environment applications.
“It is in everyone’s interests that we get funding for agri-environment work into circulation, so we are still pressing Scottish government to consider flexibility in the application window.”