The Countryside Premium Scheme (Scotland), 1997-2000

Sonia Baker

The Countryside Premium Scheme (Scotland) (CPS) was one of several voluntary schemes open to farmers from 1997-2000. In 2001, it was superseded by the Rural Stewardship Scheme.

Arising out of the EC Agri-Environment Regulation (one of the agreements to the 1992 CAP reforms), the CPS incorporated a number of pre-1996 schemes. The CPS objectives were:

… to protect and enhance Scotland’s landscape (including archaeological and historic features) and the wildlife, habitats and natural resources of the countryside.
The Scottish Office, (2002) CAP Factsheet, Annex 2

… the scheme will also help towards meeting the Executive’s national and international nature conservation objectives for example on biodiversity and the protection of rare and endangered species
information provided by SERAD

The CPS encouraged farmers to adopt environmentally friendly practices and to manage particular habitats in the interests of conservation, partly EU funded. Under the CPS, specific areas of land were to be managed or created (for example – for birds and insects; of specific habitats – such as wetland, muirburn; and for archaeological or historic interest), and capital works (bracken control; erection of footbridges, stiles etc; restoration of vernacular buildings; planting of native trees on small sites; planting of marram grass to counter erosion; creation and/or restoration of ponds) undertaken; certain general environmental conditions were followed over the whole farm.

Confidentiality prevents the identification of individuals who participated in the CPS; however, 78 East Lothian farmers signed up for the CPS over the life of the scheme, committing themselves to an initial five year participation, with an option to continue for a further five years.

YEAR No. of applications received (Scotland) No. of applications received (East Lothian) No. of applications approved (East Lothian) 1997 no figs. available 55 24 1998 960 38 25 1999 722 27 11 2000 450 23 18

East Lothian figures – Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department (SERAD);
Scotland figures -Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) web site (November 2000)

Because many East Lothian farms contain a range of different habitats, they are particularly suited to such environmentally friendly initiatives; competition for the limited funds meant that some applicants were unsuccessful. After an environmental audit, the proposed measures were set against a series of locally agreed environmental priorities. In some instances, the applications were judged against one another if the CPS was over-subscribed. The applications most likely to deliver the greatest conservation benefit were given priority.

East Lothian, with its active FWAG group (see Michael Williams, this volume) and small core of CPS adherents, had a good foundation of environmentally aware farmers on which to build.