Scotland’s 2021 Agri-Environment Climate Scheme has opened for applications, although there is uncertainty over its funding.

Following what NFU Scotland described as 'a concerted effort' by itself and other stakeholders, the Scottish Government had confirmed that AECS would open this week, albeit on a limited basis. The union has now called for ScotGov to extend AECS funding in this week’s budget, which is due to be published on Thursday.

As things stand, this restricted round of AECS will be open for new applications from now until June 30, with a funding focus on designated sites, organics, management supporting farmland waders, corn buntings and corncrakes, slurry stores and improving public access.

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said: “While the projects to be supported are known, the level of support for the scheme going forward remains unclear. This is a Pillar Two Rural Development Scheme traditionally co-financed by both Europe and Scottish Government. It is critical that funding for AECS continues and until such time as a new rural policy for Scotland is developed and implemented.

"AECS currently requires in the region of £40 million per year – a relatively small investment that yields a big return in Scotland’s interest," said Mr McCornick. "Failure to support AECS in the next few years may result in existing contracts ending year on year from 2022 onwards and a very large area of land falling out of environmental management.

“Decisions on the future of agri-environment schemes from 2021 and beyond must be a priority. Farmers, crofters and their advisors need certainty and time to prepare and plan for applications with confidence so that they can deliver on high quality food production whilst meeting the challenges of biodiversity and climate change head on," he said. “We will be looking for a clear commitment on AECS from the Scottish Government in this week’s budget announcement.”

  • More information on the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme is available at: