Scottish Government accepts that the issue requires continued consideration and action.

Responding to the debate at the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee concerning his amendment to the Land Reform Bill that sought to give 1991 tenants in tenancies that had lasted for more than 50 years a conditional right to buy their farms, Argyll & Bute MSP Michael Russell said:

“I am of course disappointed that this important amendment was not in the end accepted by the Scottish Government.  However that disappointment is tempered by the very positive debate that took place, with supportive contributions from across the committee, and by a very welcome commitment from the Cabinet Secretary to ensure that the new Land Commission will take an interest in the issue.

Moreover, despite attempts by a range of interests to try and kill the issue off by excluding the topic from any further consideration, the Cabinet Secretary was clear that he expects further expansion of the right to buy in future legislation and that he recognises the circumstance in my constituency and elsewhere that drive the need for such change.

The entire committee was of course rightly concerned about the difficulties that compliance with ECHR presents to any such proposal, mindful as we all are of the human suffering and legal nightmares that have been created by the Salvesen/Riddell case. But the majority of the Committee was also positive about the prospects for progress if enough time and care was invested in the process and wanted to see the issue tackled early in the next Parliament.

I am determined that we will continue to make progress. We are still moving forward and there is no doubt that we are getting closer to giving many long term tenants in Scotland the same opportunities that their counterparts in other places have enjoyed for generations.

Land reform in Scotland started late as a result of the refusal of Westminster to treat the matter as a priority. It is made more complicated by the constraints of ECHR, welcome as they also are. With our own Parliament, looking widely across the whole range of human rights which this bill now embraces, we have made significant steps forward but there are more to take.

The Scottish Parliament is working hard on a good Land Reform Bill and making it better all the time. Future Land Reform Bills in future Parliamentary Sessions can and will take us even further.”

Commenting on the announcement by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs & the Environment, Richard Lochhead regarding funding for sheep and beef schemes, Argyll & Bute MSP Michael Russell said:

“I would encourage all eligible farmers within Argyll & Bute to apply for these schemes as soon as possible and to make sure that the money available comes to those areas most in need. There are many problems at present on the ground with the poor summer and the drop in prices amongst them. These schemes provide useful income at any time, but will be particularly valuable in the coming winter. “


Farming support schemes launched
01/09/2015 10:00
Beef and sheep farmers can apply for share of £38 million.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead today (Tuesday) encouraged farmers to apply for their share of a fund to support beef and upland sheep.

This is the first year of the new schemes. The support for beef producers replaces the old Scottish Beef Scheme and will reward farmers for calves born on or after December 2 2014. The support for farmers with sheep is new and will provide support to help maintain flocks in some of the most challenging agricultural land in Scotland. Payment under both schemes are due in 2016.

Mr Lochhead said:

“Succulent Scotch Beef and Lamb are prime products that are in demand all over the world. Scotch Beef was voted the nation’s favourite food and drink product last year. Following a challenging summer for farmers, these two new schemes will provide a welcome support for a vital part of the farming industry.

“This is the first time we have offered a specific support scheme to the islands to recognise the fact they have more adverse farming conditions due to poorer quality land and smaller markets which means they are more dependent on distant markets. Farming and crofting communities are vitally important and I hope the Upland Sheep Support scheme will help maintain employment, particularly during harsher times.

“I would urge farmers to make sure applications for these new schemes, which are worth around £38.8 million in total, are submitted in plenty of time ahead of the relative deadlines and make the most of the money available to them.”

The Scottish beef sector accounted for 22 per cent of Scottish agricultural output over the last 10 years, with beef production being the largest agricultural sector in Scotland. The sector has 11,400 employees on beef cattle holdings, and meat from beef suckler herds is highly valued due to its high marbling factor.

Sheep farming is a key agricultural use of rough grazing, with 8800 employed on specialist sheep holdings in Scotland. In 2011, specialist sheep businesses in the LFA (Less Favoured Areas) accounted for 20 per cent of Scotland’s SFP recipients and 6 per of total direct payments.

The Scottish Upland Sheep Support scheme is one of the Scottish Government’s decisions as part of the new CAP arrangement from 2015. It is part of a package of measures designed to reward activity and eliminate as far as possible the so-called “slipper farmers”.

In order to be eligible for the Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme a sheep producer must have homebred ewe hogs, no more than 200 ha of payment region 1 land, and 80 per cent of their holding must consist of land in payment region 3. Payment will be restricted to one ewe hog for every four hectares. The scheme is targeted at sheep production on the poorest quality land; other sheep producers are not eligible for this scheme, but will receive higher payments under the Basic and Greening Payments schemes.

Applications can be made online at

Notes to Editors

Funding breakdowns as follows: Beef £32.7 million and Sheep £6.1 million, but will depend on the euro / sterling exchange rate in force at the time of settlement.

Deadlines for claim submission are: Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme – midnight on 16 October 2015; and, Scottish Suckler Beef Support Scheme – midnight on 31 December 2015.

All applications for the schemes can be made through Rural Payments and Services, the Scottish Government’s online service, which allows applications to be submitted securely, checked for completeness prior to submission and provides and acknowledgement of submission.

Paper applications will also be accepted for these schemes. They should be submitted through local area offices. Applications for the Sheep Upland Support Scheme must be submitted through the Inverness area office only, with forms being sent to: RPID, Longman House, 28 Longman Road, Inverness, IV1 1SF.

Should customers require support from their local area offices in using the new services, appointments can be booked online by visiting

Michael Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, has welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement that more support will be available for farmers and crofters filling in the Single Application Form (SAF) during the final weekend of the application window.

Area offices will be providing additional telephone support for farmers and crofters between 10am and 3pm next Saturday and Sunday (13th and 14th June), as well as normal working hours between now and the SAF application deadline on Monday 15th June. The announcement comes after the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs Committee recommended more telephone support for farmers in the remaining application period.

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The MSP for Argyll & Bute, Michael Russell, has written to Forestry Commission Scotland, urging them to withdraw their support for a planning application by PNE Wind for a large wind farm at Bachan Burn, overlooking the Firth of Clyde and Dunoon.

Mr Russell, a former Minister for Environment, has been in regular contact with the Forestry Commission on behalf of constituents for some time about the matter, and was instrumental in securing Forestry Commission representation at the public meeting about the wind farm proposal, which took place in March. Attendees of the meeting came out unanimously against the plan.

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Argyll & Bute MSP Michael Russell has urged Argyll & Bute farmers and crofters to beat the last minute rush and apply for farm payments using the Single Application Form (SAF) as the Scottish Government announced improvements to the operation of the new Rural Payments and Services website.

The complexity of the new Common Agricultural policy (CAP) has resulted in implementation challenges right across the UK and Europe – and as a consequence Scotland, along with 15 other EU countries, have extended the deadline for farmers and crofters to submit their SAF until the 15 June.

Mr Russell said:

“Local farmers have just over one month left to complete their SAF forms. We already know this task has been made more difficult by the complexity of the new policy, so people should not leave it till the last minute to apply.

“It is good news that the Scottish Government has taken action so that the performance of the Rural Payments and Services system has improved – particularly the speed at which it runs. I have been making representations on behalf of local farmers for some time on this issue as have my MSP colleagues and it is good that Richard Lochhead has listened and ensured that changes were made.

“Scotland, along with 15 other EU countries, have extended the deadline for farmers and crofters to submit their SAF until the 15 June – but, if possible, they should beat the last minute rush and apply now.”

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

“This is the first year of the new payment system for the more complex Common Agricultural Policy and, although delivery has been challenging, we are now seeing real improvements to the system’s operation.

“While the new system is different from the previous one that farmers will be familiar with, it offers significant benefits to farmers, ensuring they get paid what they are due and is designed to minimise errors and penalties.

“We are aware that some farmers and agents have experienced issues and we have a dedicated team working to ensure all problems are sorted as quickly and we have extended the deadline for the submission of applications by one month to 15 June 2015 to allow for more time to get used to the system and rules of the new Common Agricultural Policy Programme. In addition, we recognise that that online applications do not suit everyone and paper applications have always been welcome.”

Russell asks for Chair and CEO to explain further price reductions and penalisation of Bute suppliers

The Scottish Parliament Rural Affairs Committee has agreed to recall senior figures from First Milk to question them about the company’s “Turnaround” plan revealed last Friday which further reduces the amount paid to Scottish dairy farmer members of the co-operative and introduces a punitive additional one penny a litre cut for Bute producers because of transportation costs.

Michael Russell, the MSP for Argyll & Bute and a member of the committee requested the recall at a meeting of the Committee this morning and members agreed to include it at an early date in their forward work programme. The invitation is likely to be issued by committee clerks today and it is hoped that the Chair and CEO of the company will agree to appear before the committee within a fortnight.

Commenting on the decision Mr Russell said:

“There is huge anger on Bute at the decision of their own co-operative to penalise the dairy farmers of that island with an additional one penny per litre price cut over and above the 0.2 cut being imposed across Scotland, but not in some other areas of the UK. Members of the rural affairs committee were unanimous in their view that this new development necessitated a recall of First Milk, who gave evidence to the Committee’s dairy inquiry on 28th January, given that the price being paid before this latest cut was still well below the cost of production. In addition the committee has previously called for assistance with transportation costs for Bute dairy farmers and the “turnaround” plan seems to cynically take advantage of any concession that might still be made.

“I believe the Chair and CEO of First Milk have a great deal of explaining to do and the Scottish Parliament Rural Affairs Committee is keen to hear from them as soon as possible. Such a public session will also allow the Bute dairy farmers themselves to hear at first hand why the company has behaved in this destructive and damaging way.”

Speaking in this afternoon’s debate on the inquiry into the dairy industry, conducted by the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee, Michael Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, said:

“I congratulate my fellow Committee members and the Committee clerks for their work in the inquiry and I welcome the Scottish Government’s Dairy Action Plan, published earlier this month, which accepted all of our recommendations. I am particularly pleased that the Scottish Government is committed to innovation in the industry and the development of a Scottish dairy brand, to be launched in October.

“However, it is imperative that action is taken now to sustain dairy production in Bute and Kintyre, and ensure the long-term sustainability of the Campbeltown creamery. The investment package for Campbeltown creamery of £450,000, confirmed by the Cabinet Secretary in today’s debate, is of great importance and needs to be spent on the creamery as quickly as possible. The Scottish Government must also introduce the ferry concession requested by Bute dairy farmers, and backed by NFUS. All these things need to happen sooner, rather than later.

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A series of drop-in events is being held across Scotland to share information about Marine Scotland’s consultation on statutory management measures for Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas and Special Areas of Conservation. The consultation is seeking views on possible management approaches which may be implemented for protected areas in Mull waters, and elsewhere around Scotland.

This is an opportunity to share your views, from a local or national perspective, directly with Marine Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage representatives and to help decide how protected areas are managed in the future.

Tobermory Drop-in Event:

Thursday 15th January 3pm to 9pm
Tobermory Harbour Building