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Agribusiness News February 2023 – Policy Brief

2 February 2023

Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) Update

With the majority of farmers having now been notified whether or not their 2022 AECS application has been successful. From 30th of January, AECS 2023 is open for applications.

In addition to the new round focusing on Agri-Environment support and slurry storage options, to help achieve the Scottish Government’s target of doubling the amount of land under organic management by 2026, the area cap will be suspended for the conversion to, and maintenance of, organic farmland for AECS 2023 applications.

To simplify application and administrative procedures, support funding for slurry storage can be accessed using the existing slurry storage option which is available under AECS. Slurry storage will now be available nationally, with the exception of areas designated as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs).

Businesses that currently house livestock on slurry-based systems with less than 6 months’ storage capacity will be eligible to apply. Slurry storage contracts will be issued by the end of April 2023 with the anticipation that work will be carried out in 2023 and claimed by 29th February 2024. Businesses should consider this element carefully before applying, as there will be no ability to defer work to another year.

For the 2023 AECS application round, the option for ‘creation of hedgerows’ will be limited to 500 metres per application and the following elements will not be available:

  • Improving Public Access (IPA)
  • Pond creation
  • Muirburn and heather cutting
  • Restoring drystone or flagstone dykes
  • Bracken treatment (mechanised and chemical).

Hunting with Dogs Bill

As part of tighter laws to protect Scotland’s wildlife, the Scottish Government has passed new legislation to prevent the chasing and killing of wild mammals for sport. Under the Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) 2023 Bill, a new two dog limit for all use of dogs in the course of hunting will be introduced, as well as a ban on the practice of trail hunting.

The new Bill will also establish a new licencing scheme to allow the use of more than two dogs in certain limited circumstances. This is to provide farmers and land managers access to appropriate and humane control measures, where necessary.

Protection for tenants extended

Following on from the introduction last October of the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Act 2022; the emergency measures introduced to protect tenants will be extended until the 30th of September 2023, with an option for a further six-month extension, if required. From the 1st of April 2023, the following changes to the Act will be implemented (subject to Parliamentary approval):

  • Limited to once per 12 months, landlords can increase private rents by up to 3%.
  • Private landlords can apply to Rent Service Scotland (RSS) for rent increases of up to 6% to help cover specific costs including increases in mortgage interest payments on the property, an increase in landlord’s insurance and/or increases in service charges paid as part of a tenancy.
  • The ban on evictions will continue with the exception of certain situations such as a private landlord needing to sell due to financial hardship or a tenant engaging in antisocial or criminal behaviour.
  • Increased damages for unlawful evictions of up to 36 months’ worth of rent will continue to apply.
  • The rent cap for student accommodation will be suspended, recognising its limited impact on annual rents set on the basis of an academic year.

Short term let licence extension

The deadline for hosts to apply for a short-term letting licence is being extended by six months to 1 October 2023. The new deadline applies to anyone operating as a host before 1st October 2022. Hosts who started operating after 1st October 2022 must have applied for and obtained a licence before accepting guests and bookings.

Key dates

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