NFU Scotland has urged the Scottish Government to reconsider its decision to close the New Entrants Capital Grant Scheme, a move described by NFU Scotland as ‘disappointing’.
Emily Hickman reports...
The scheme, which has helped encourage new entrants into Scottish farming, provides grants to new farm businesses in Scotland, but will be closed after only three years.
The Capital Grants Scheme has provided more than £8 million of grants since 2015, which has helped over 600 applicants.
An additional £2 million was injected into the programme in 2017.
Scottish Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “It is testament to the popularity of the scheme that we have now met and exceeded our objectives for the scheme.”
NFUS president Andrew McCornick said: “Encouraging a new generation to farming is vital if Scotland is to maintain vibrant farming and crofting sectors. Attracting talented people to agriculture is a key priority for both the Scottish Government and NFU Scotland. Now is not the time to take a step back.”
The union previously advised the Scottish Government that reallocating certain funding pots within Scotland’s Rural Development Programme (RDP) to Young Farmers and New Entrants Start Up Grant Schemes would be more beneficial to the Scottish rural economy.
Mr Ewing said ‘encouraging new, and younger people to the industry, is a priority of this government’ adding it would continue to explore other avenues to maximise the opportunity for a new generation of farmers and crofters.
Disappointing news for Next Gen Group that New Entrants Capital Grant Scheme to close after 31st August. Mark Donald, chair of Next Gen + @andrewmccornick tell press now not the time to step away and funding from SRDP merits reallocation to Young Farmers/New Entrants Schemes— NFU Scotland (@NFUStweets)
Disappointing news for Next Gen Group that New Entrants Capital Grant Scheme to close after 31st August. Mark Donald, chair of Next Gen + @andrewmccornick tell press now not the time to step away and funding from SRDP merits reallocation to Young Farmers/New Entrants Schemes— NFU Scotland (@NFUStweets) August 18, 2018
Scotland was the only part of the UK to include this type of grant scheme in their RDP programme, and it was the success of the Scottish scheme that prompted similar schemes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Mark Donald, chairman of the union’s Next Generation Group, added: “Now, with all the Brexit instability we face, is not the time to shy away from the task.
"The Scottish Government has shown commendable commitment towards the next generation of food providers and it would be a shame if it were to end with it being exposed in a poor light due to inefficient budgeting.”
Mr Ewing encouraged those who had begun their applications to get them in before the August 31 deadline.