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NEW DISTINCTIVE SCOTTISH AGRI-ENVIRONMENTAL SCHEME

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Consultation on a distinctive all-Scotland agri-environment scheme for farmers and crofters was today announced by ...
Consultation on a distinctive all-Scotland agri-environment scheme for farmers and crofters was today announced by Scottish agriculture, environment and fisheries minister, Lord Sewel. The proposals are to merge the long-standing Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) Scheme with the Countryside Premium Scheme (CPS). It was also revealed that more than 900 environment-friendly farmers and crofters have applied to join the Countryside Premium Scheme.

Lord Sewel said:

'Following approval of the first round of CPS applications I intend to consult widely on proposals to merge the existingEnvironmentally Sensitive Area Scheme into the CPS to create a new environmental scheme for Scotland's farmers and crofters. This would be a single scheme for the whole of Scotland to reflect the distinctive characteristics of Scottish agriculture and our countryside. The response to the CPS in its first year suggests that an integrated scheme with a menu of options is more attractive to farmers than the individual schemes it replaced. By combining the best elements of both existing schemes we will make it easier for more farmers and crofters to participate in conservation management and bring greater benefits to the environment.

'This is a first important step in developing these schemes to meet Scottish needs.

'The bumper crop of applications to the Countryside Premium Scheme is extremely encouraging. I am delighted that so many farmers and crofters have applied for funding to manage their land in the interests of conservation. They have a crucial role in helping to maintain and enhance Scotland's rich natural heritage.

'The process of assessing and inspecting applications is now underway to determine which of the applications offer the best conservation benefit and to select those which should be approved for funding.'

NOTES

1.The Countryside Premium Scheme opened for applications on March 24. A total of 906 applications have met the closing date of July 31. Decisions on all applications are expected to be made at the end of October. Funding available for the Scheme in this financial year amounts to£2.5m. As publicity material for the Scheme emphasises, the assessment process will take account of the number of locally-agreed conservation priorities included in individual applications.

2.The scheme covers the 80 per cent of Scotland's agricultural land not currently covered by Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) designation. Farmers and crofters who successfully apply to join the scheme will receive payments for five years to undertake positive

conservation management measures and capital works in association with conservation management. Details of the payments available

were announced on January 31.

3.The ten Environmentally Sensitive Area Schemes in Scotland were due to be subject to policy reviews during 1997 and 1998. The first two reviews (for the Breadalbane and Loch Lomond ESA schemes) were scheduled to commence this Autumn, with others due to take placelater in 1998. Following the announcement today, all ESAs will now be reviewed in 1998 along with the CPS with a view to merging the ESA Schemes into the CPS to form a single new scheme.

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