Local MSP John Lamont has expressed concerns over a delay in Scottish Government funding to local land-based business, Spital Tower Estate, in the Scottish Borders.
The Scottish Parliament Rural Affairs Committee Member visited Spital Tower, near Denholm, last week to discuss the estate’s planned investment in the local economy. The estate is diversifying to provide tourist accommodation in the form of a campsite, supported wild camping, and self-catering units as well as a horse tourism project. However estate owner Alan Bailey has been forced to put plans on hold for over a year due to a delay in the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) funding.
The SRDP programme grants individuals and groups funding to help deliver the Government's strategic objective of strengthening rural communities. It aims to do this by supporting schemes in the farming, forestry and primary processing sectors as well as rural enterprise and business development, diversification, and rural tourism projects. SRDP utilises some €680m of European Agricultural Fund for rural development funding and also benefits from Scottish Government match funding.
Alan Bailey is also a member of landowner membership organisation Scottish Land & Estates. He said:
“We have encountered problems with the administration of SRDP funding which have delayed our tourism business by at least a whole tourist season and put the entire £310,000 project at risk. I am aware of other rural business owners who have encountered problems with the administration and payments side of the SRDP programme and there is growing concern that this is undermining both the Government objectives and individual projects.
“We want to continue or investment in the rural economy of the Scottish Borders but this has been delayed. It is very frustrating.”
John Lamont MSP commented:
“The agricultural and land sector has had more than its fair share of challenges in recent years and it is important to support the unique projects, such as those taking place at Spital Tower, to sustain the contribution estates make to the Borders economy.
“It is therefore concerning that there has been such a delay in funding from the SRDP, which has posed a real threat to the future of the project. The needless administrative wait has pushed back their tourism business by a whole year costing the project a huge amount of money. Instead of the programme helping rural development, the lack of payment is now hindering it and it is vital that they receive their share of funding as soon as possible.
“The forthcoming reform of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) provides a great opportunity to improve SRDP and I am determined to do everything I can to ensure that any changes are to the benefit of farmers and landowners in the Borders, and to the wider rural economy.”
Scottish Land & Estates Regional Manager Teresa Dougall said:
“The SRDP is an extremely important source of funding in rural areas and many of our members have been successful in securing support for their business and environmental initiatives. But while they welcome the support that is made available, they have also highlighted to us their ongoing frustration at the process and bureaucracy involved.
“Scottish Land & Estates is urging the Scottish Government to learn the lessons from the current rural development programme as it starts to think about how it designs the next, which will result from the current reforms of the CAP. While it is tempting to focus on the specific issues and measures that need funding, it is absolutely crucial that the government designs a programme that can be delivered quickly and efficiently to those it is designed to help on the ground.”