The Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) has submitted views to the first part of the Crofting Agriculture Grant Scheme review, asking for it to be extended to all crops including trees.
“This scheme is very important to crofters and to the local economy”, said Yvonne White, chair of the crofters’ federation. “It is a well-used development mechanism and provides a very valuable contribution to crofting land-based production, so that crofts can prosper and contribute to rural economies and population retention. If there has been any lack of use, as was the case some years ago, it has been because of restrictions within the scheme rules. If the scheme is designed to be pragmatic it will be well used. Indeed the budget could be increased, and every penny would be contributing significantly to the wellbeing of rural communities. We therefore welcome this review and the aim of ensuring that the scheme works well.”
This scheme provides grants for crofters to make improvements to their crofts and help to sustain their businesses. Funding can be used for capital projects, such as the construction or improvement of agricultural buildings. Funding for eligible capital projects can cover all aspects of the project, including the cost of materials, transportation of materials, costs of contractors and the crofter’s own labour. The total amount of grant aid a crofter can apply for in any two year period is up to £25,000, or a group of crofters up to £125,000.
Ms White continued, “SCF’s view is that this scheme should help any croft land-based production. In the past it was perhaps easier to classify croft work as ‘agriculture’ and so call the scheme an agricultural grant scheme. Croft production is diverse and it is Scottish Government policy to encourage this, so the scheme should therefore reflect this policy. If a crofter is engaged in land-based production operations not classified as ‘agricultural’ in the strictest sense, they should still be able to apply for those items currently eligible for grant aid. For example horticultural production is included, which we welcome, and we recommend that this be widened to include growing flowers and other ornamental plants. We also recommend the introduction of support to bee-keeping. In the same vein we would recommend the inclusion of forest products and aquaculture.”
Ms White went on to explain, “Forest production would not include woodland creation or management, for which other schemes offer assistance, rather the operations involved in processing forest products as a business, for example sawing and drying timber for construction or fuel. Trees are a crop as much as cereals or grass. Aquaculture would only include the business of on-croft farming of aquatic food, for example, trout, carp, molluscs, crustaceans and plants.
“The eligibility of works and equipment supported should be universal across all land-based production operations”, Ms White concluded. “We suspect that uptake of these extensions would at first be quite low and a trial period could ascertain usage. If the budget available is surpassed, we think an increase in budget should be considered rather than a decrease in eligible crofting operations.”