Scotland’s Next Generation Group has written to Rural Economy Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing expressing “extreme disappointment” at news the New Entrant Capital Grant Scheme will close this week.

According to the group, which is facilitated by National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland, the short notice attached to the August 31 deadline for applications has caused “real angst and anxiety” for young farmers.

It has called for urgent clarification that those eligible claimants who are already in the process of submitting an application but are awaiting necessary paperwork – such as planning permissions and building warrants – will still be accepted when complete.

The group had previously written to the Cabinet Secretary in mid-August, welcoming that future new entrant schemes were recognised in the recent ‘Stability and Simplicity’ consultation.

However, the group advocates that any further new entrant and young farmer schemes must go beyond a five-year period to allow for the long-term progression of businesses.

The group said the sudden closure “only adds to the uncertainty” within Scottish agriculture and to secure the future of Scottish farming and crofting and added that there must be investments made to support and equip this generation.

Chairman of NFU Scotland’s Next Generation group, Mark Donald, a starter farmer from Stirlingshire said: “In the Year of Young People, the closure of this scheme is a real blow to young people trying to establish their business in what has already been a challenging year for Scottish farmers and crofters. There is now very limited targeted support available for new entrants and young farmers.

The scheme was supposed to be both open and funded until 2020 and the unexpected closure has left a number of new entrant members of NFU Scotland having to restructure their business plans to accommodate for the late warning.

“Many potential recipients of the scheme have already incurred significant costs in the process of putting together their applications and are now very concerned that the tight timeframe in which to complete applications will not be achievable.

“We hope the Cabinet Secretary accepts our reasonable demand that eligible claimants who are already in the process of applying, and awaiting necessary paperwork such as planning permission, building warrants etc, will be accepted with the necessary paperwork provided when ready.

“Looking ahead, the lack of support specifically for new entrants and young farmers currently brings great uncertainty to the sector.

“With no proposed future schemes, I am concerned that many fledgling farming businesses who will play a vital role in the future success of Scottish agriculture will slip through the cracks.”