Small Producers Pilot Fund: Steering Group Minutes: October 2023

Minutes of the meeting held on 31 October 2023

Attendees and apologies

  • Helen Glass, Chair, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)
  • Fiona Leslie, Scottish Government (SG)
  • Martin Beard, Smallholding Scotland
  • Liz Barron-Majerik, Lantra Scotland 
  • Donna Smith, Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF)
  • Louise Hellyer, Scottish Government (SG)
  • Archie Hipwell, smallholder and supply chain consultant
  • Jo Hunt, crofter and Knockfarrel Produce
  • Jenna Mays, Scottish Government (SG)
  • David McKay, Soil Association Scotland (SAS)
  • Justin Orde, South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE)
  • Douglas Bowden-Smith, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)
  • Andrew Moxey, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)
  • Fiona Richmond, Scotland Food & Drink (SFD)
  • Alan Stevenson, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)
  • Rona Sutherland, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS) 
  • Fergus Younger, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)

Also in attendance:

  • Michelle Colquhoun, Scottish Government (SG)
  • Andrew Mitchell, Scottish Government (SG)


  • Rosemary Champion, Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) 
  • Adam Forrest, Scotland Food & Drink (SFD)
  • Diana Garduño Jiménez, Nourish Scotland
  • Abi Mordin, Hidden Veg and Propagate 
  • Fiona Richmond, Scotland Food & Drink (SFD) 
  • Ceri Ritchie, SAC Consulting, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)
  • Debs Roberts, Scottish Organic Producers’ Association (SOPA)
  • Tara Wight, Land Workers Alliance (LWA)

Items and actions

Welcome and Introduction

The Chair welcomed everyone to the eighth and final Steering Group meeting and introduced Donna Smith, representing the Scottish Crofting Federation. Apologies are noted above. The Minutes of the last Teams meeting on 26th September were adopted and approved for publication on the Scottish Government (SG)’s website. The action points from that meeting are either completed, work in progress, or appear on the agenda for this meeting. 

Update on delivery: main SPPF fund – Alan Stevenson, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)

SAOS has been working with Scotland Food & Drink (SFD) to have the SPPF application portal ready for 1st November. The recommendations from subgroups 6 and 2 have been incorporated to keep the form as simple and straightforward as possible. A draft guidance document for applicants has also been produced.

With input from Lantra, SAOS has produced a draft document for panel members, setting out Terms of Reference and the process for dealing with Conflicts of Interest. Panel members will meet at least fortnightly from the opening of the fund until two weeks after the closing date.

A draft scoring matrix and an outline process flow for applications has also been developed. There will be a rolling assessment of applications.

Agreement still needs to be reached with the SG on data transfer arrangements and discussions are required around Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) and Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA).

A communications strategy and plan is to be developed to ensure that there is consistent messaging around the fund. All Steering Group Members will have a role to play in publicising the fund through their own communication channels, but any press releases need to be cleared through the SG first. The SG has a communications plan template, to develop a Comms plan which will be shared with all Steering Group Members.

The SG is finalising the amounts proposed to be allocated to each of the steering group identified funding streams. The SG confirmed that the SPPF is only able to accept applications for projects which are able to complete by the end of March 2024. Budgets for the 2024-25 financial year will be agreed by the Scottish Parliament and only at that point will the SG know what budget allocation is available for small producers for FY 2024-25.

A suggestion was made that although within the current SPPF constraints applicants should demonstrate that their projects will complete by 31st March, we could also ask applicants to indicate within their applications if the project is intended to be part of a longer programme that could continue beyond March 2024. This would give us an early indication of any projects that could come forward in future funding requests.

Action point 1

The SG will develop a communications strategy and plan which will be shared with all Steering Group members to ensure consistent messaging around the SPPF.

Update on delivery: training fund – Liz Barron-Majerik, Lantra

Lantra has been doing a lot of work to get the Skills Hub ready and it is now going through beta testing by the training providers, ensuring that all relevant courses are loaded. Applicants are able to search by course type, geographic location or by SPPF badged courses. A draft logo has also been developed to badge SPPF courses on the Skills Hub website.

Update on delivery: assessment panels – Jenna Mays, Scottish Government (SG)

The SG has accepted all those who volunteered to be panel members for the main fund, training fund and horticultural fund. This will allow sufficient people on each panel to be able to cover if someone is unable to attend.

Action point 2

The SG will write out to panel volunteers on a more formal basis about the arrangements within the next couple of weeks. SAOS will then issue all panel members with the supporting guidance documents.

Update on delivery: announcement/launch date – Fiona Leslie, SG

No date has yet been fixed, but the launch is likely to take place at a venue in central Scotland. A press release will be prepared in advance of the launch, which will be shared with all Steering Group Members under embargo. If any member does not wish to be named in the press release, their details can be kept off the background communications.

Update on projects: information hub website – Jenna Mays, SG 

The Information Hub is likely to be hosted on the Nourish website and is being designed from a small producer’s point of view. Nourish will be in touch in due course regarding any contributions required. The plan is to develop the Hub in stages, further information will be available before the end of this financial year.

Update on projects: seed/equipment testing – Jenna Mays, SG

The project outline is agreed, but discussions are ongoing regarding the appropriate delivery mechanisms. It is planned to have this agreed within the next two weeks, i.e. by mid-November.

Update on projects: abattoirs – Fergus Younger, SAOS

A paper summarising the results of the survey work has been presented to the subgroup, Steering Group and the SG. The survey process has also been discussed with the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) and Fergus will be presenting on the topic at a rural Parliamentary event in Fort William on Thursday 2nd November.  A paper outlining potential solutions and costs has also been provided to the SG for consideration.

Within the financial constraints of trying to deliver something within this financial year, the decision has been taken to pilot test one proposal - trialling the concept of employing co-ordinators for private kill and siting these co-ordinators in one or two abattoirs which currently handle private kill. Following evaluation of this, proposals may be put forward for longer-term delivery from April onwards.

This is only one aspect of the potential solutions, however. Other key issues raised through the survey were around the price of private kill and the geographic spread of available abattoirs. For example, there used to be around 11 abattoirs handling private kill in the Highlands and Islands area and now there are only 3. The price of private kill has also trebled in the last three years.

The report highlights all these issues. Most require long-term solutions, which will be easier to consider once the SG has an idea of what budget might be available post-April 2024.

As expectations have been raised with industry that solutions to the problems identified through the survey will be forthcoming, it will be very important to keep industry informed as to what is being done and where we are in the process.

Publication of abattoir report & recommendations – Jenna Mays, SG

The draft Abattoir report is currently with SG and needs to be approved by the Cabinet Secretary and a communications plan agreed before it can be published. The draft Steering Group recommendations report has now been circulated round the Steering Group by SAOS (no issues were raised) and returned to SG for finalisation and approval by the Cabinet Secretary.

Capex paper final recommendations – Jo Hunt, Knockfarrel Produce, Justin Orde, South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE)

Two papers were circulated for Steering Group Members’ comments, as both Justin and Jo have looked at the capex requirements from slightly different angles. Jo’s critical requirements are that the capex fund should be available to small producers wishing to supply food to local people; that it should have the flexibility of the Crofting Agricultural Grants Scheme (CAGS); and that it ensures equal treatment betwCapex paper final recommendations – Jo Hunt, Knockfarrel Produce, Justin Orde, South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE)een crofters and non-crofter small producers. The capex grant scheme ceiling should be £50K. It would be useful if the scheme could incorporate support for feasibility studies and provide soft loans.

Justin’s approach is that there should be three elements to support for small producers: the SPPF resource grant; a capital grant of up to £15K operating in a similar way to CAGS; and a larger capital fund for equipment, of £15-£50K, available on an unsecured, 0% loan basis. The SPPF would cover feasibility work and the development of business plans; the capital grant would support investment with match funding (including in-kind applicant time) towards project costs; and the 0% soft loan scheme could be used to fund up to 100% of capital costs, with repayment terms over a maximum 5-year term.

The Steering Group wanted to recognise the work that has gone into preparing these two papers, which need now to be combined into one, before submission to the SG for consideration. The combined paper should reflect the views of the wider Steering Group and to that end consideration should be given to the written comments by members submitted in advance of the meeting and the voting that took place by those present at the meeting.

Voting took place on three of the key questions asked by Jo and Justin:

• Q3 Range of investment supported - should the capex fund cover the full span of investments within short supply chains, i.e. both increased/improved primary production and food processing/ 
marketing? 8 out of 8 eligible members voted in favour
• Q4 Fund mechanisms – do you support the provision of three fund mechanisms? 
4.1 feasibility/external expertise support? 3 out of 8 eligible members voted in favour
4.2 capital grant aid – for capital works and equipment purchase 7 out of 8 eligible members voted in favour
4.3 soft loans – with 2 to 5-year repayment terms 7 out of 8 eligible members voted in favour
• Q5 Fund operation – should the fund be open for applications all year (unallocated funds permitting)? 8 out of 8 eligible members voted in favour

As a point of clarification around the feasibility element, if a business has already produced a feasibility/business plan, they should not have to produce another one before they can access a capital grant. If they don’t have one, however, then some supportive evidence would be needed that the proposal was a viable one with a reasonable chance of success. This proposal is that there should be support for applicants to prepare that evidence.

Note 11

Steering Group Members should contact Justin and Jo if they have any further thoughts around capex.

Note 12

Justin and Jo will collate one paper, taking Steering Group Members’ comments into account and submit this to the SG for consideration within the next three weeks.

AOCB - knowledge exchange event - Jenna Mays, SG

A knowledge exchange event has been proposed by Diana at Nourish to look at convening at the end of the financial year to review and compare what was intended with what has happened.

Members who had previous experience of this type of event were very supportive of the idea, having found them to be inspiring, a great forum for sharing best practice and very useful for non-successful applicants to find out what is successful. It provides a forum for small producers to find out what is happening in a broader landscape, as they can sometimes be isolated, operating in a vacuum. It could also be a useful forum for Steering Group Members to meet again too.

The timing proposed, March 2024, might not be the best time for livestock producers and it might be difficult to host one event in a central location given the spread of small producers across the country. Regional events might encourage greater attendance. The SG will consider this proposal.

Next steps

This is the last meeting of the Steering Group and the SG wants to record its sincere thanks to all Steering Group Members for their time and valuable contributions which have taken the group to the point of having developed a pilot fund which is workable and deliverable.

The Chair reiterated her thanks to members for sharing their knowledge, experience, passion, wisdom, pragmatism and enthusiasm. The process has been challenging at times, but Members have worked productively to achieve consensus and to take the SPPF to this point. 

Though these meetings have now ceased, communication channels remain open. A suggestion was made by Members that the group meet again at some point early next year, which was warmly supported.

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