NFU Scotland has welcomed the announcement from Rhona Brankin, Deputy Environment and Rural Development Minister, of an increase in the Scottish Executive grant, which assists farmers to establish short-rotation coppice willow or poplar as an energy crop. This will bring it into line with the equivalent grant in England.
The decision still awaits European Commission approval but once this is acquired, the Scottish Forestry Grants Scheme (SFGS) of £600 a hectare will rise to a flat rate of £1000 a hectare, paid to farmers who have a supply contract with an end user.
George Lawrie, Chairman of NFU Scotland's Environment and Land Use Committee, said:
“This move is good news for Scottish farmers who deserve a level playing field with their English counterparts.
“The change will also help to create a new market for farmers looking to diversify and expand or alter their production.
“I believe that this is also a very positive step forward for Scotland's biomass industry as a whole and it will mean that in future more biomass can be used to generate power. This will have the two-fold benefit of boosting the economy and benefiting the environment, as greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.
“However at the present time, as we are faced with serious concerns over fuel prices, I think it really hits home that while this is a positive step, much more needs to be done as far as renewable energy is concerned. We are more than capable of producing our own biofuels and reducing our reliance on oil but there is still a long way to go.”
If approved by the European Commission, the grant will be open for applications from 1st October 2005. Further information is available from Forestry Commission Conservancy offices or from the website, www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland.