Wildlife charity calls for cuts in farmers’ cash

Yetholm Loch, one of the reserves SWT manages in the Borders
Yetholm Loch, one of the reserves SWT manages in the Borders

A charity which manages reserves in the Borders is calling for as much Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) money as possible to be diverted from farmers to green schemes.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust, which runs six wildlife areas in the region, wants the Scottish Government to move the maximum amount (15 per cent) from direct subsidies to farmers into schemes for wildlife and rural businesses.

The Scottish Government proposes moving 9.5 per cent of next year’s CAP Pillar 1 cash (€580 million), for direct payments to farmers, to Pillar 2 (€477.8milion for 2014-2020), money for rural businesses, agri-environment schemes, difficult-to-farm areas, training, forestry, diversification and community projects. And consultation on that move ended on Monday.

SWT’s Bruce Wilson said: “The outcomes of this consultation are vital for protecting and enhancing the natural environment, and if done correctly could help declining birds numbers in species such as curlew, lapwing and kestrel to recover.

“Greener farming practices will also have a positive effect on Scotland’s ecosystems which deliver the free services such as clean drinking water, healthy soils, carbon storage and sustainable food production.”

National Farmers’ Union president, Stow farmer Nigel Miller, said: “If we are to see an increase in agri-environment spend at a time when agricultural support is being heavily cut, it must be designed to deliver multiple objectives. Environmental wins can be secured through management programmes which also support real-farm activity.”

The government is also consulting on the Scottish Rural Development Programme, funded from Pillar 2.