Scottish government urged to support the country’s lamb production

A new scheme supporting Scottish lamb producers in Scotland’s hills and uplands has opened for applications yesterday. 

Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme (SUSSS) provides support in helping to maintain sheep flocks on farms and crofts that rely on poorer-quality rough grazing.

The National Farmers’ Union Scotland (NFUS) estimated that there were approximately 3,500 to 4,000 hill farmers and crofters who keep breeding flocks on some of Scotland’s most disadvantaged land.

Although the SUSSS fund is worth €8 million, or roughly £6.1m, payment rates will depend on the number of home-bred ewe hoggs and on the exchange rate at the time.

However, NFUS is concerned about the lack of basic information that the Scottish government has been providing on the application process.

“Scotland’s hill sheep farmers and crofters need a clearer steer over this important new scheme that could help underpin returns to their business,” explained NFUS president Allan Bowie.

“The scheme is now live, applications are open, but that information has, to date, been poorly communicated to potential claimants and we need the Scottish government to turn that around with a degree of urgency.”

Bowie explained that the scheme was targeted at those who actively farm in the country’s most disadvantaged areas and called for them to take advantage of this opportunity.

“It is vital that eligible farmers and crofters make the most of this scheme as it will be an increasingly important element of the direct funding available to their business,” continued Bowie.

“The application window, which opened on 1 September, is only six weeks wide. As a union, we are doing our bit to relay that message to our members, but Scottish government must do its part as well. This package of funding was only secured after hard-fought negotiations at a European, UK and Scottish level. It is in everyone’s interests that we make it work and, for that to happen, we need the Scottish government to be more proactive in getting scheme details out there.”

Furthermore, Bowie called for Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead to prioritise sending clear and concise information to all the producers likely to be eligible for the scheme, and to make them aware of the application process.

Bowie concluded by adding: “It is a new scheme and there is a higher level of complexity than we would have wanted. That means that the cross-compliance burden is significant, so the earlier farmers are reminded of the requirements, the better they can prepare. That would also be in the interest of the Scottish Government’s Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (SGRPID) and those officers in charge of the inspection process. For our part, we have already been across in Brussels lobbying for more practical rules when it comes to recognising missing sheep or tag losses.”

The application deadline closes on 16 October.

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