Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) 2014-2020 Stage 2: Final Proposals

Stage 2 document setting out the final proposals for the new rural development programme period (2014-2020).

Section 5: Rural Regional Delivery Partnership For Land Based Investments


92. One of the key messages you gave us from the first consultation was that you wanted a simpler application process, especially for the land based grants. This proposal responds with a streamlined process and assistance for agricultural, environmental, and forestry investments.

93. The proposed process is focussed on the assessment of applications that

come through the SRDP application portal for agricultural, environmental, and forestry investments. The schemes it would look to deliver (and the assessment levels which are explained at paragraphs 106 - 110) are:

94. LFASS (in time, new ANC scheme) - assessed at level 1 - for 2014 - 2016, and depending on the requirements set out in the agreed regulation and associated implementing acts, the LFASS scheme will continue as it is currently shaped to allow time to develop the new ANC scheme. This also allows time for the new DP rules to bed in, which will entail significant change for all sectors of the Scottish agricultural economy. We will be setting out proposals on the change to ANC in 2015.

95. New entrants to farming start-up grants - level 1 - a business start-up grant of up to €70,000 can be awarded to qualifying new entrants under EU rules (a person who is 40 years of age or less at the moment of submitting the application, possessed adequate occupational skills and competence and is setting up for the first time in an agricultural holding as head of the holding). The new Advisory Service would specifically support new entrants' advice.

96. Crofting and Small Farm Grant Scheme - level 1 - This is a continuation and extension of the current CCAGS scheme, which has only been available to crofters to date. We are extending the scope of this scheme to include small farms. The types of investments that can be made through this scheme remain the same as the current CCAGS, with the addition of an option to ensure the setting up of common grazings committees can be taken forward. The budget has been increased to take account of the increased scope.

97. Agri-Environment and Climate Scheme - level 1 and 2 - This will deliver a wide range of interventions to protect and enhance the environment and mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change (including support for organic farming and the retention of genetic resources).

98. Forestry Grant Scheme - level 1 and 2 - This will deliver a broad range of forestry investments to stimulate woodland creation and encourage the sustainable management of woodlands to provide economic, environmental and social benefits. New grants to support agroforestry and tree health are being introduced.

99. Support for Co-operative Action - level 1 and 2 - This proposal was raised in the stage 1 consultation and received strong support. Applications can be made under this scheme for organisations and groups of applicants to take forward the development, animation and implementation of co-operative projects. This can either be through project officers bringing together a group of farmers and land managers under the banner of single project, or for organisations themselves with permission of landowner/farmer, to take forward a project that straddles several farms/areas of land.

100. Full details of each scheme/fund are available in the sections that follow on from this.

101. For the future programme we are allocating funding to capital investments in agriculture to crofters and new entrants. This is in line with responses to the first consultation, prioritises spend on key areas of need and allows for other rural priorities to be addressed. However, the report the Scottish Government commissioned Scottish Rural Colleges (SRUC) to undertake on Modernising Scottish Agriculture[9] identified some actions we could take which, although small in monetary value, could enable significant improvements to be gained by all in the primary agricultural sector. These actions will be progressed via the Advisory Service and Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund and are again in line with responses from the first consultation which placed a high priority on innovation and competitiveness.

Application process

102. The applications will come through the RPID Paying Agency system for administration purposes, and use the current Rural Priority Scheme regional boundaries. The assessment of applications will be undertaken through a case officer assessment network (see paragraphs 111 and 112) by the relevant SRDP Delivery Partner (FCS for forestry; SNH for designated sites; RPID for all other land based investments). For applications that require a joint assessment to ensure the delivery of multiple benefits the process set out in paragraph 113 would apply.

103. We are looking to develop a common application form for all SRDP land based investments. This form will request generic information required for all schemes, and then scheme specific information. This will allow an applicant to apply for all land based schemes at the same time. For most schemes these applications, once approved, will be claimed and verified through the current Single Application Form (SAF) which all farmers must complete in order to secure their DP. Specific claim and payment arrangements for capital and other appropriate costs will also be developed.

104. We are working towards being open for applications from 1 January 2015.

105. The approval system set out below proposes that there would be a single entry route, with two levels of assessment depending on the cost/complexity of proposals. This would be designed to focus on the delivery of priorities and to mitigate the risk of poor value for money. It would mean there is a competitive approach across all SRDP grants, ensuring we secure maximum value for money.

106. There would be 2 levels of entry.

107. Level 1 would be for applications for grant up to a threshold value of £75,000 per scheme (excluding LFASS which will all be assessed via level 1 regardless of grant size as it is a direct income support measure), focussed on regional and national priorities and approved by the relevant government department/agency (RPID, FCS, SNH) depending on the application type. Applications will be made on a continuous approval basis, within a set timeframe to ensure projects have enough time to be properly assessed, approved and prepared. Ministerial approval is not required for all applications at this level.

108. There is a slightly different approach for forestry. Due to the nature and size of the forestry projects the threshold for level 1 will be the current one of £750,000. All projects below this level will be assessed by FCS as they are at present. This is due to the significant amount of pre-approval checks that forestry projects must go through to ensure the impact on the environment and surrounding areas are taken account of when designing plans.

109. Level 2 would be for applications for grant above £75,000 (£750,000 for forestry), which would be considered nationally by an expert panel made up from: RPID; SNH; FCS; Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA); and Historic Scotland. Stakeholders would also be invited to sit on the panel as observers. The panel would meet on a regular basis (monthly or quarterly, based on estimated demand and capacity).

110. For forestry projects ministerial approval will be required for any project exceeding £750,000. For all other projects the majority may not require further scrutiny but a threshold will be set above which ministerial approval will be required. This will help ensure projects of national and strategic importance are given an appropriate level of scrutiny.

Assessment network

111. To ensure that applications are assessed with appropriate knowledge and expertise feeding in, a case officer assessment network is proposed. This was supported in principle by the majority of respondents (65%) to the stage 1 consultation and continues the successful partnership approach that has developed over the life of the current SRDP. This would entail an appropriately experienced "gatekeeper" allocating cases, submitted via the application portal, to relevant case officers.

112. The assessment and approval will be overseen by the responsible SRDP Delivery Partner (FCS for forestry; SNH for designated sites; RPID for all other agri-environment and agricultural investments, but with reference to the other partners where necessary over particular technical issues).

113. Clear criteria agreed between the SRDP Delivery Partners (and SEPA and Historic Scotland where appropriate) will be used by the gatekeeper to judge whether an application requires assessment by the network, rather than by individual partners. If the application is to be assessed in partnership the application will be sent to nominated officials from each of the relevant organisations so they can each input into the assessment. One organisation will take the lead to ensure support to the applicant is consistent.

114. Selection criteria will be weighted in order to express their relative importance and as a matter of principal a score of zero points will be given to an application that does not fulfil the selection criteria.

115. The first part of the selection process will be to ensure that the applicant/application meet basic eligibility criteria. Failure to satisfy basic eligibility criteria will mean the application is rejected before proceeding to assessment and scoring.

116. The process may include an assessment visit. This visit will not look to amend/improve applications but to collect and assess the facts of the application on the ground, and ensure the applicant understands what they are signing up to.

Application limit

117. To ensure effective use of funds, it is proposed that applicants will be limited to a single application for each scheme per year for level 1, and a single application for each scheme per year for level 2. We are proposing exceptions for applications relating solely to the management of designated sites and the Forestry Grant Scheme. This will ensure that the available funds can be used effectively and spread the benefits gained from the investments across a wider range of businesses than has been the case in the current programme.

118. Projects should not be approved simply due to the fact that some businesses can afford the resources to make applications as soon as funding schemes open, whereas others may have to take more time to develop plans and find match funding (where relevant). We believe a more strategic view of the type of applications that should be supported can be taken by restricting the pipeline in this way.

Assessment of grant required

119. In the case of investments that drive a potential profit or business benefit, to ensure that we properly assess the additionality provided by SRDP grants (to meet audit requirements) it is proposed that intervention rates should be negotiated rather than set at a fixed amount. This already operates successfully within the Food Processing Marketing and Co-operation Scheme and LEADER schemes. We believe this will secure better value for money from the investments we make and allow a more efficient distribution of funds.

120. An assessment of the appropriate intervention rate to offer applicants is undertaken by the case officer. This will be tied to clear guidance for managers and case officers (and will include the range of rates that could be offered, based on clear rules). This guidance, and an underpinning quality assurance process, will ensure there is consistency of approach across regions and case officer assessments. This process will look to ensure that only projects requiring public funds to proceed as planned will receive funding.

How customers will be supported

121. As part of this new approach, and tied to our work to ensure improved customer support to applicants across all services provided by SRDP Delivery Partners, we are looking to increase the capacity of our staff (working with other public agencies) to assist applicants in understanding the rules and application system, and informing them of the investment options available.

122. We will look to increase the amount of assessment visits undertaken. Where appropriate, a visit to the farm or land can be undertaken by an official from the local RPID area office (or other delivery partner where relevant) to better evaluate the application and assist the understanding of the applicant on the requirements they are signing up to. Given resource requirements at the beginning of the programme period this will be a medium term ambition but one we will look to roll out on an increasing basis as capacity allows.

How we will ensure funds are targeted

123. To ensure we secure maximum value from the investments we make we will be targeting the investments available under these schemes. This will be done in a variety of ways, depending on the nature of the investment:

124. LFASS - targeted as at present to those farmers who operate in less favoured areas for agriculture and will be scaled depending on constraint faced.

125. New entrants to farming start-up grants - This will be targeted towards those meeting the EU definition of a young farmer, and assessed on the basis of the business case supplied at time of application.

126. Crofting and Small Farm Grant Scheme - This will be targeted at crofters and small farmers (potentially those who operate a farm between 3 - 50 hectares). Applications will be assessed on the basis of the business case supplied at time of application.

127. Agri-Environment and Climate Scheme - Investments under this scheme will be targeted using an evidence based approach which will ensure investments happen only in areas where that particular investment is a clear priority. This targeting data will be used by SRDP delivery partners to identify key areas where initiatives should be promoted in order to encourage take-up.

128. Forestry Grant Scheme - Woodland Creation projects will be targeted using Indicative Forestry Strategies and Forestry and Woodland Strategies together with important local considerations such as agricultural/forestry integration. Woodland Management projects will be targeted to ensure they make the best contribution to Scottish Forestry Strategy.

129. Support for Co-operative Action - This will be targeted through SRDP delivery partners identifying on an annual basis the priority themes for this fund (such as water quality improvement in priority catchment areas; habitat creation; removal of invasive non-native species). Delivery partners will also work together to help promote the initiatives we would like to see taken forward under this fund.

Question 2

Are you broadly satisfied with the new application and assessment process for land based investments outlined in section 5?

Please tick the appropriate box in the online questionnaire.

Very satisfied
Quite satisfied
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
Quite dissatisfied
Very dissatisfied

If you are dissatisfied please briefly outline your reasons (in the space given in the online questionnaire).


Email: Julie Brown

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