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£30m boost for rural business climate change projects

By Niall Harkiss

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Rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon is encouraging businesses to apply in the next round of the scheme
Rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon is encouraging businesses to apply in the next round of the scheme

More than 600 rural businesses with projects that protect the environment and mitigate the impact of climate change will share £30 million from the latest round of the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) 2021.

AECS was launched to promote land management practices which protect and enhance Scotland’s natural heritage, improve water quality, manage flood risk and mitigate and adapt to climate change. In October 2021, rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon announced the extension of the scheme up to 2024 with a new round opening in each new calendar year.

Applications for the next round will open on January 24 and farmers and crofters will be able to apply for support for conversion to and maintenance of organic land, alongside a suite of other measures aimed at promoting low carbon farming and protecting the environment.

Ms Gougeon said: “AECS has provided almost 3,000 applicants with around £244 million since it launched. This funding for the sector has helped us restore and enhance nature through increased biodiversity, improved soils and contributions to mitigating climate change at the same time as providing high quality, locally produced food.

“I’d like to thank those who have applied for the scheme and clearly understand the importance of doing what we can to mitigate climate change. Our vision for the future of rural Scotland is a positive one. We see our land managers and world-class producers thriving, while backing our world-leading climate change agenda and our response to the biodiversity crisis. AECS continues to play an important role in meeting these commitments and it also supports the ambition of doubling the amount of land under organic management, set out in the Programme for Government 2021-22. I would encourage people to apply for the next round of the scheme to continue this work.”

NatureScot’s chief executive Francesca Osowska said: “I’d like to congratulate all those who have been awarded AECS grants in 2022 for the 2021 round. In this time of the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis, farmers and crofters play a vital role in helping protect and restore nature in Scotland. These valuable projects will help support our vulnerable wildlife and habitats, improve soil health and water quality, reduce flood risks, increase organic farming and help improve public access in rural areas, among other environmental benefits.”

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