Leading conservation charity, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and its members feel deeply let down after the decision of the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment, Richard Lochhead, to limit the transfer of funds from farm payments to rural development programmes.
This decision means that nearly £220 million of public money will go on direct farm subsidy with almost no way of targeting it to achieve any kind of public benefit.
Previously, the Cabinet Secretary had said he would ensure that the allocations of these funds would strike the “right balance of support” across the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) pillars, however the Trust believes this is not the case.
Farmer and member of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Tom Sampson, said: “Mr Lochhead’s decision really disappoints me.
“SRDP monies have allowed me to establish new native woodlands and hedges on my farm, create wetlands and introduce a whole host of riparian measures aimed at reducing diffuse pollution and improving water quality.
“These SRDP-funded improvements will hopefully benefit native wildlife as well as the wider environment.
“If Mr Lochhead chooses not to fund SRDP properly there will be a real danger, that not only will existing schemes be discontinued, but new ones will not be initiated and years of accrued benefit to wildlife will be lost.”
Conservation Shepherd for the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Laura Cunningham, said: “Our flying flock has been used to graze sites such as Montrose Basin in Angus and rare-species rich grasslands throughout Fife.
“These sites benefit from grazing to encourage threatened wildflowers, such as orchids, to thrive while also producing high-value lamb.
“Money from SRDP agri-environment schemes is vital to allow inspiring projects like this to continue.”
Living Landscapes Policy Officer for the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Bruce Wilson, said: “The Scottish Government is guilty of short-termism and needs to think more about ensuring the long-term sustainability of Scottish agriculture and our rural communities.
“The rural economy is dependent on so much more than high-input, intensive, agriculture.
“This decision means that wildlife loses out because there is less money in the pot for agri-environment schemes”