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The SFGS is open to landowners, tenants, crofters and grazings committees on common land. It provides financial support for woodland expansion and restocking (including natural regeneration) on agricultural and non-agricultural land and supports stewardship activities in existing woodlands. Woodland expansion and restocking includes principal operations such as ground preparation, protection, planting (including weeding and fertilizing), management of natural regeneration, and open space management. Grants for such operations are made as a contribution towards the cost of afforestation of land (SEERAD, 2005).

Payments for operations under woodland planting and natural regeneration are available for the following objectives (Forestry Commission, 2005a):

  • Producing well designed productive forest
  • Restoring native woodland
  • Improving riparian habitat
  • Improving the quality and setting of urban or post-industrial areas
  • Improving the diversity of farmed or crofting landscape

However, payments do not cover the full amount of planting and management costs and are restricted to 60 percent or 90 percent of defined Standard Costs of certain operations determined in agreements. The Standard Costs are outlined in the Scottish Rural Development Plan (SEERAD, 2005) and the SFGS Applicant’s Booklet (Forestry Commission, 2005a). In more detail, the 60 percent cost contribution applies under objectives 1 and 5 of the above list, while 90 percent of the operational costs will be provided under the objectives 2, 3 and 4. Costs for operations for restocking purposes are generally defined at 75% of the cost for planting on new areas.

Grants are paid after the completion of work, but in different stages depending on the different operations. While for ground preparation payments land managers receive payments after the completion of the work, standard grants for planting are paid in two stages with 70% after planting and the remaining 30% after years, if the trees are in satisfactory conditions and minimum stocking levels are fulfilled (see table 27.1). Similarly, payments for regeneration are also available in two stages, first 60% or 90% of the costs of work as agreed necessary to encourage natural regeneration after the completion of the work, and second, a further fixed payment for achieved successful regeneration usually after 5 – 7 years (SEERAD, 2005; Forestry Commission, 2005a).

In addition to the standard grant, a number of specific grants such as Targeted Grants, Challenge Funds, Locational Premia, and Negotiated Grants are available in the SFGS supplementing the standard grant. Targeted Grants aim to raise the level of afforestation in specific areas and Challenge Funds provide a competitive mechanism to increase public benefits. Locational Premia offer an additional non-competitive flat rate per hectare in specific geographic areas and Negotiated Grants for applications in excess of 300 hectares. Furthermore, payments are available for poplars and willows planted on suitable sites to be worked on short rotations (short rotation coppice).

With respect to stewardship,the SFGS provides for the costs of work significantly improving economic, ecological and social values of woodland. Grants are available for applications which meet at least one of the following objectives (SEERAD, 2005; Forestry Commission, 2005a):

  • Improving timber quality
  • Reducing deer numbers
  • Native woodlands
  • Improving woodland biodiversity
  • Landscape improvement
  • Developing alternative systems to clear-felling
  • Woodland recreation
  • Developing community involvement

Although generally stewardship grants are only available for existing woodlands, in specific situations and applications such as creating recreation facilities or encouraging community involvement these grants are also available for new woodlands. Payments rates for the Stewardship Grants vary between 60% for grants which will result in some public benefits (e.g. applications under objective 1) and 90% for grants which will provide enhanced public benefits such as access and biodiversity (e.g. applications under objectives 3 and 7). Moreover, three pilot schemes were introduced in 2005, prior to implementing the grants in the following year. These schemes aim at enhancing biodiversity in woodlands through controlled grazing, improving economic value of farm woodlands by developing woodland products, and improving economic value of farm woodlands through local wood production and the use of wood energies (SEERAD, 2005). For example, a Controlled Livestock Grazing in Woodland Stewardship Grant has been introduced to maintain and enhance biodiversity in woodlands. The scheme will last between 5 and 10 years and participants receive, in addition to the 60%/90% of cost contribution, £100 per hectare per year (Forestry Commission, 2005a).

and in woodland set-aside is not eligible for the Single Farm Payment Scheme and will be paid under the forestry scheme. However, to qualify for grants, applicants must adhere to the UK Forestry Standard and associated Forestry Commission Guidance. Moreover, detailed eligible criteria for the different objectives listed above are outlined in the SFGS Applicant’s Handbook (Forestry Commission, 2005a).