NBA - Grave concerns at the delay facing Scotland's Rural Development Plan

UK - Scotland's agricultural and rural bodies have today expressed grave concerns at the delay facing Scotland's Rural Development Plan and the inadequacy of the Scottish Executive's proposed solution. They have called for an urgent meeting with Environment and Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie.
calendar icon 1 November 2006
clock icon 2 minute read
Scotland's Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme, worth £61 million to 13,000 of the country's hill farmers and crofters, would normally be paid out between March and May. The scheme represents lifeline payments over the Spring. However, delays in getting approval in Europe for the mechanism which would allow UK administrations to raise additional modulation, has resulted in a refusal by the Executive to submit its Rural Development Plan. The result is that LFA payments will be delayed until the end of 2007, which means a financial crisis is looming for many hill farms. These farms represent the bedrock of many rural communities and are key to the environmental management of the countryside.

On Wednesday (1 November), Mr Finnie announced a supplementary payment of £10 million under LFASS this year. However, industry bodies have rejected this as unsatisfactory.

The agricultural industry has proposed two more effective solutions, following discussions with the European Commission.

Firstly, to submit a more limited Rural Development Plan, without the use of voluntary modulation in 2007. The Executive has dismissed this on the grounds that voluntary modulation is required to cover existing commitments under environmental schemes. The industry bodies agree that it is absolutely vital that existing scheme participants are protected, on top of delivering a full LFA scheme, however are concerned that they have been presented with no clear figures demonstrating the need for voluntary modulation to do this.

The second option, also advised by the European Commission, is to pay £61 million of LFA support as a state aid in 2007, in the absence of an agreed Rural Development Plan. The Minister has indicated this would not be acceptable to the Commission, however it is unclear what discussions have been had in Brussels and on what basis the Commission deems it unacceptable.

All the signatories to this statement are urging the Executive to provide clear evidence to demonstrate why the two proposed options are unacceptable. News Desk
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