At a meeting with Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) has been assured that reformation of the much-criticised Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) is intended, starting with a stakeholder group early 2021.
“It is encouraging that the planned-for reforming of LFASS will go ahead”, said Yvonne White, chair of the SCF, “albeit not as quickly as we would like. The word ‘stability’ is used to justify the continuing of a scheme that has been misused for a long time. However, SCF will participate in a consultative group to be formed early in the new year , and that is a step in the right direction. We had a very productive meeting with Fergus Ewing to discuss support to the remote parts of Scotland that face disadvantage through natural constraints.”
Scottish Government announced recently that the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme will be kept in place for now. SCF has lobbied for change for many years, arguing that LFASS is not fair in the way it is inversely formulated, – paying more per hectare on less-disadvantaged land. This view has also been put forward by others, including Committees of Inquiry and European Commission officials. A very thorough government-led working group into the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) concluded that LFASS should be dropped in favour of a scheme targeting support at the more disadvantaged areas.
“LFASS has been unfair to the very areas that it should be supporting, and Mr Ewing was candid about the lack of progress on reforming it, or introducing a new ANC scheme,” continued Ms White. “We appreciate that COVID-19 and Brexit have taken up a huge amount of Scottish Government resource but we are disappointed that no progress has been made in the four years since the previous ANC work was abandoned. He assured us that a group would be formed in early 2021 to look at support to crofting, hill farming, areas of natural constraint and High Nature Value areas, in the context of the prevailing climate change emergency. Crofters will be represented on this group by SCF.”
Ms White concluded, “Crofting offers a great deal in producing food and retaining communities in remote rural Scotland, whilst protecting the environment and contributing to carbon sequestration. It is a sustainable model of land use that needs to be supported. We welcome the intention to reform how public money can be used effectively to produce public goods.”