After months of lobbying the Scottish Government with our concerns and requesting them to provide details relating to the negative list, the Scottish Government has finally announced that it is unlikely to add sporting estates to the negative list at this point in time.
Scottish Land & Estates welcomes this announcement.
David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates said: “We welcome the decision by the Scottish Government not to add sporting estates to the negative list at this time. In our discussions with government, we have highlighted the negative impact this measure could have had on genuine farming businesses whilst stating our support for minimum activity requirements. We remain fully behind efforts to ensure that support only goes to active farmers.”
Scottish Land & Estates is very supportive of efforts to focus agricultural support on active farmers. Agricultural support is public money and should be used to support farming, but in seeking to add Sporting Estates to the negative list the Scottish Government was potentially going to exclude perfectly legitimate farming businesses on the basis that they also undertook sporting activity. This would have been detrimental to many farming businesses, many of which could have been large operations, which would have had knock-on impacts for jobs and local economies.
A farmer’s sporting activity does not somehow negate their farming activity; if they are farming they should be treated fairly like everyone else. Part of the problem is the term ‘Sporting Estates’. There are very few estates that are purely involved in sporting activity; most are mixed businesses that invariably involve farming as a key pillar of what they do. Those pure "sporting estates" with no farming will, we believe, be excluded anyway. So while the government is concerned about large areas of land that are not being farmed being used to activate public support, we believe that the minimum activity requirement introduced by the Scottish Government will have the effect of removing this land from receiving support. The Scottish Government does not need to pursue a belt and braces approach, which would simply add to the bureaucratic burden for both farmers and government.
In his statement Mr Lochhead indicated that he still wanted to seek ways of implementing his policy preference that Sporting Estates should be on the negative list. He said:
“I am determined that large, sporting estates should not be entitled to receive CAP payments that are intended to support hard-working farmers who produce the food for our tables. Although our tough, new minimum activity requirements will make large areas of land ineligible for future direct farm payments, the negative list would be belt and braces and give us an additional insurance policy to ensure only genuine farm businesses who are actively managing the land can receive farm payments.
“We have been advised by the European Commission that current negative list rules would mean that even if a farm that has just one day of sporting activity it would be ineligible for farm payments. This is clearly not acceptable and I will continue to press the Commission on this issue. I will continue to press for more flexibility in the system, and for the removal of obstacles that are, at this stage, preventing us from adding sporting estates to the negative list.”