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Rural interests called for talks
Farming, environmental and other key interests were called together yesterday to discuss future investment in rural Scotland.
In his first act as Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead convened the talks along with the new Minister for Environment, Michael Russell.
Decisions have to be made soon relating to more than £1.5 billion potential spending for the draft Rural Development Programme over the next seven years.
Mr Lochhead said:
"The draft programme prepared by officials, following extensive consultation, was waiting for me on my desk when I was appointed last week.
"I was keen to bring together all the key interests at the earliest opportunity to discuss these vitally important issues. This will be a hallmark of the new approach this Government is taking.
"It has been very useful to be able to listen to all the views expressed. Today I was able to give detailed information - which was not made available before - to help inform the discussion of the draft programme.
"We will now give detailed consideration to the options. This is still a work in progress and subject to further refinement and change as the draft Rural Development Programme is finalised.
"Investment of this scale requires input from all interests in rural Scotland to prepare the industry for a sustainable future."
The £1.5 billion over seven years total would be provided by the Scottish Government, the European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development and national modulation of the Single Farm Payment.
Investment is directed to support key themes:
- improved farming and forestry viability
- environmental benefits (tackling climate change, enhanced landscape and biodiversity, and improved water quality)
- thriving rural communities
Today's meeting was with representatives of the Scottish Government Rural Development Stakeholders Group.
The deadline for a UK submission to the European Commission on Voluntary Modulation is 12 June.