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Fresh Focus For Rural Priorities

2nd August 2010

Move to benefit more applicants and help smaller projects

Changes are being made to the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) to ensure rural Scotland gets maximum benefit from the Programme.

This will increase the number of business development proposals financed through the SRDP and strengthen the role of local decision-making in community development projects.

Funding for community projects and development plans will now be considered under LEADER through Local Action Groups (LAGs). Some 13.3 million has been re-allocated to support this change.

The autumn funding awards for Rural Priorities will focus on agri-environment and forestry projects, and the Scottish Government is considering introducing a continuous assessment process for smaller scale Rural Priorities projects. Awards for Business Development applications submitted after August 2, 2010 will be capped at 250,000 per project.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead said:"The Scotland Rural Development Programme is a big success story. In Rural Priorities alone over 4,000 projects worth around 338 million have been approved since the scheme was launched in 2008.

"Projects include widespread woodland creation to tackle climate change, farm business expansion creating rural jobs and species and habitat maintenance to safeguard Scotland's rich biodiversity. As well as funding forestry and agriculture, Rural Priorities has supported such diverse projects as swimming facilities in the Borders and an upgraded path network in Comrie, to a youth drop-in centre for the community of Sanday in the Northern Isles.

"This investment is stimulating the rural economy, benefitting the environment and supporting our rural communities.

"Recognising the importance of SRDP in supporting economic development, I brought forward 25 million under Rural Priorities to help lay the foundation for a sustainable rural Scotland. I have been delighted by the response, which is creating jobs and stimulating economic activity in rural areas during these challenging times.

"The time is now right to maximise the benefit of available funding, given that pressures on public spending mean there will be no more extra money for the Programme. The 250,000 ceiling on business development will help spread out that strand of the funding, giving more applicants a chance of success.

"I considered financing business development projects until the relevant budget was used up, without imposing a ceiling. However, this would have limited the number of businesses that could benefit from funding and deprived many young farmers and developing businesses of access to much-needed Rural Priorities support.

"I am continuing to examine the feasibility of introducing a continuous assessment process for smaller Rural Priorities projects from 2011, allowing small and medium scale businesses continuous access to funding. I will make a detailed announcement on this, and provide dates for future grant rounds, later this year.

"Strengthening local decision-making will empower communities to make the most of the funds available. To support the shift of funding for community facility projects to LEADER, I have increased the allocations to Local Action Groups by 13.3 million.

"With considerable funds still available through SRDP, this approach will ensure that together we maximise the benefits for rural Scotland until the Programme's end in 2013."

Following these changes, the Rural Direct Service will approach any applicants whose community facility projects have not been decided upon in the current round to see how they want to proceed. To contact Rural Direct email info[AT]ruraldirect.org.uk or call 0845 838 8598.

All eligible Business Development projects seeking more than 250,000, and received by the October Regional Proposal Assessment Committees' (RPACs) submit deadline of August 2, 2010, will be considered for that higher level of funding as part of the first 2011 RPAC round.

The focus on agri-environment and forestry projects applies to the October RPAC round only. Applications which cannot be considered then will automatically be deferred to 2011.

Rural Priorities and LEADER are delivery funding mechanisms under the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP). Worth some 1.5 billion, the SRDP is designed to develop rural Scotland from 2007 to 2013. Individuals and groups may seek funding from the Programme to help deliver the Government's strategic objectives in rural Scotland. Rural Priorities is a competitive funding mechanism which delivers targeted environmental, social and economic benefits to 11 designated regions. The priorities for each region are agreed with local stakeholders through RPACs, and contracts are awarded for the proposals which are best able to deliver those priorities. Its key outcomes are to contribute to:
* improved business viability and competitiveness
* improved water quality
* adaptation to, and mitigation of, climate change
* protection and enhancement of biodiversity and landscapes
* sustainable rural communities.

LEADER aims to increase the capacity of local rural community and business networks to build knowledge and skills, and encourage innovation and co-operation in order to tackle local development objectives. LEADER accounts for over six per cent of the total SRDP allocation. Funding is awarded by Local Action Groups (LAGs) who take decisions on projects which are community driven and have a wide community benefit.

These LAGs are a partnership made up of representatives from the: local council; Local Enterprise Company; business people; their public agencies; voluntary action groups; and community groups.

The six other delivery mechanisms of the SRDP are the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme, Land Managers Options, the Crofting Counties Agricultural Grant Scheme, the Forestry Challenge Fund, the Skills for Development Scheme, and the Processing, Marketing and Co-operation Grant Scheme.

More information is available at www.scotland.gov.uk/srdp

 

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