The Scottish Rural Development Programme(SRDP) is currently under review with changes being planned for the next programme from 2013 onwards.
There are all sorts of changes that could be made, and many groups will be trying to have their say and achieve changes that might be to their advantage. Much of the debate will centre of the fine details of grant rates. In forestry at least, there is a feeling that the worst of the initial problems have been ironed out, and evolution not revolution is now required.alt
One of the most significant disappointments of the current scheme is that it still fails miserably to promote collaborative projects. Many potentially worthwhile rural projects extend over a number of land ownership boundaries. Invasive species eradication, access improvements within a Deer Management Group, purchase of equipment that might help a river board within a particular catchment could be some examples.

Multiple Applications Deterrent
At present, if owners wish to apply for SRDP funding, all landowners within that area need to apply at the same time. The process is expensive, tedious and landowners are almost always dissuaded from participating. Much is made of “catchment scale” projects, but SRDP cannot deliver them. Very often, it deters them. Imagine a catchment with maybe thirty owners, all requiring a few hundred pounds each to control invasive species. The current system would require thirty applications, all many times the cost of the actual work. Unsurprisingly, this type of situation then usually goes unaddressed. There are many other examples as well.
A suggestion has been put forwards by the Forestry Commission that a new type of applicant should be eligible for SRDP: an organisation or membership group that applies on behalf of a group of owners or businesses. In the above example, a competent organisation would apply on behalf of all thirty owners.

‘Single Umbrella’ Solution
There are no details yet, but the advantages would be very considerable. A single application makes the admin easier for everyone. The applicant would need to be properly constituted, have a particular remit in the area concerned and be properly representative and accountable. It would need to have the capacity to administer such a scheme, and be able to implement it fully. Mapping would still be necessary, and local buy-in demonstrated, but multiple applications and endless strings of FID numbers could be done away with.
There is no reason why such a change should not be legal, but a cultural change within officialdom would be required, most notably within SGRPID who prefer their grant schemes to work in a more rigid way. For this reason, high level support is required. SGRPID will not change their ways easily
Scottish Native Woods certainly aims to get behind this idea and make it work. Allowing a new category of applicant like this would remove obstacles currently in the way of many worthwhile projects in Highland Perthshire and beyond.

Victor Clements
Scottish Native Woods


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