Agri-Environment Climate Scheme
Date published: 14 February, 2024
For recent changes to this guidance, please see the bottom of the page.
The Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) will open again for applications in February 2024.
The Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) promotes land management practices which protect and enhance Scotland’s magnificent natural heritage, improve water quality, manage flood risk and mitigate and adapt to climate change.
It also helps to improve public access and preserve historic sites but please see information below in relation to Improving Public Access for the 2024 application round.
- Full scheme guidance
- Selection criteria
- Breaches and penalties
- Reviews, appeals and complaints
The 2024 Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) application round will open for applications in February2024. A summary is below but it is important that you read the detail for each element you wish to apply for as there are important changes. Please note Improving Public Access will not open for applications in 2024.
Slurry stores: 15 February 2024 – 19 April 2024
Stand –alone Water use Efficiency Irrigation Lagoon: 15 February 2024 – 19 April 2024
Stand-alone Organic conversion and maintenance: 01 February 2024 – 31 July 2024
Agri-environment: 01 February 2024 – 10 June 2024
Note: If you are applying for Organic conversion and maintenance as part of a single application with Agri-environment management it must be submitted by the 10 June 2024 deadline. Similarly, if you are applying for water - use efficiency irrigation lagoon capital items alongside other AECS management options your application must be submitted in the main Agri-Environment application window 1 February to 10 June 2024.
The AECS Slurry Storage option remains nationally available, except in areas designated as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones. Businesses that currently house livestock on slurry-based system with less than 6 months storage capacity will be eligible to apply.
Note: Holding codes with land contiguous to the boundary of designated NVZ areas or which have land which is part in / part out of a designated NVZ will not have Slurry Storage listed in the Targeting Tool as an option that they may be eligible to apply for. In these circumstances, the eligibility for Slurry Storage should be checked with the relevant area office before commencing an application.
Businesses that previously received funding for slurry storage under the Rural Priorities Scheme are now eligible to apply for AECS slurry storage funding.
Priority will be given to first time slurry storage applicants in the event of budgetary constraint.
The period to submit slurry storage applications will remain early in the year. This is to allow these applications to be assessed, scored and contracts issued where approved, by the end of May 2024. We will retain the flexibility over the build and claim period including allowing interim claims for the 2024 round as introduced in 2023 to assist businesses in the process. Details are published on the AECS slurry storage web pages.
For 2024, applicants must use the excel based slurry storage calculator and guidance provided on the slurry storage page. This is to provide uniformity of application and assessment and enable case officers to issue contracts quicker. Applications that do not use the provided calculator for the production and storage requirements of the application will not be assessed.
Slurry storage payment rates
The standard cost for cubic metre of capacity created increases to £20/m3. Funding remains restricted to a maximum 2000 cubic metres of storage.
Water-use Efficiency – Irrigation Lagoon
This item can stand alone or be part of a wider application. Stand alone irrigation applications will be assessed on their own merits and against other stand alone irrigation lagoon applications if budget pressures constrain our ability to approve applications.
Stand alone Irrigation Lagoon applications (lagoon and underground drainage only) must be submitted in the period 15 February 2024 to 19 April 2024.
Successful applications will receive contracts from May 2024 onwards.
Applications for Irrigation Lagoons that also include AECS management proposals must be submitted in the main Agri-Environment application window 1 February to 10 June 2024
Water-use Efficiency - Irrigation Lagoon Payment rates
The payment rates for the Irrigation Lagoon capital items have been increased as follows.
The maximum payment for this option is now increased to £40,000 per business with the individual cubic metre values below.
- £2.94 per cubic metre without a proprietary liner
- £8.20 per cubic metre with a proprietary liner
The area caps were removed in 2023 for conversion and maintenance. While there is no upper limit for land in organic conversion or maintenance you must be able to demonstrate that the land is used for agricultural purposes.
To maximise the benefits of the scheme while mindful of budgetary pressures, the amount that can be applied for under the following two options have been restricted.
- Pond creation and restoration is restricted to 2000m2 per application and 600m2 per pond.
- Creation of Hedgerows is restricted to 1000m per application (The limit has been raised from the 500m limit set in the 2023 round)
The capital items below that were not available for the 2023 application round are available for the 2024 application round:
- Restoring Drystone or Flagstone Dykes
- The Heather Cutting element of the Muirburn and Heather Cutting capital item
- Primary Treatment of Bracken – Mechanised or Chemical*
- Follow up Treatment of Bracken - Mechanised or Chemical*
*Chemical control of Bracken is no longer funded through AECS following the decision by the manufacturers of Asulam not to pursue authorisation for the chemical in the UK.
For clarity, the items/options below remain suspended for the 2024 round.
- Creation of Species Rich Grassland
- Heather Restoration
- Heather Restoration – Follow-up Molinia control
- The Muirburn element of the Muirburn and Heather Cutting capital item
Designated Sites, Deer Management and Peatland Management or where an Endorsement from NatureScot is requested
If you intend to apply for management to benefit a designated site (SSSI or European site) you are strongly advised to contact NatureScot before preparing your application.
If you are considering applying for deer management, you must contact a NatureScot Wildlife Management Officer before applying. We advise you do this as soon as the application window opens. The deadline for NatureScot pre-application advice on deer is 30 April 2024.
If you are considering applying for peatland management, you are strongly advised to contact NatureScot at least a month before the submission deadline to discuss your proposals.
If you require a NatureScot endorsement to allow you to apply for an option outwith its target area you MUST submit the endorsement request form to NatureScot as early as possible and at least one month before the closing date. If it is approved you must upload the endorsement as part of your application.
Rules and supporting information
Each management option and capital item page has a link to supporting information which provides recommendations and best practice in relation to the why, where, how and what for each option and capital item. Your application could gain additional points if you follow these.
Please note the AECS pages (and the Targeting Tool) have been updated for the 2024 round, where required and a list of the updates is provided below. Applicants should acquaint themselves with the latest guidance before preparing/submitting an application.
Updated webpages will have a date of August 2023 or later.
A list of the application results from the 2023 round can be found on the table below.
For further AECS updates from previous application rounds, please check our updates page and previous versions of this page.
How to get help and advice:
The scheme is being delivered jointly by the Rural Payments and Inspections Division (RPID) of the Scottish Government and NatureScot
A case officer will be assigned to your project once you have formally submitted your application. However, if you have any questions about this scheme before then, please get in touch. Contact details for RPID offices can be found in our Contact us section or find contact details for NatureScot.
You can also book an appointment at your local RPID office if you need any help to use this guidance, or with the online application system.
Updated webpages for 2023 will have a date of November 2022 or later.
For further AECS updates from previous application windows, please check our updates page.
The scheme is open to farmers, groups of farmers and other land managers with land in Scotland, who are registered with us and have a Business Reference Number.
You must be able to demonstrate that you have the legal right to carry out the projects to be funded for the length of the contract and any associated monitoring period.
To maximise environmental outcomes and ensure value for money, support under the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme is geographically targeted.
This means you will need to check which options are available in your area before applying.
You can check which options and capital items you are eligible to apply for by entering your Holding Code in the targeting tool. If you have several holdings, you will need to enter each of these separately.
There are two levels of entry to this scheme. Applications falling into each category will be assessed as follows.
- Level 1 - this is for lower value applications up to an agreed monetary value for the round. This agreed value is dependent on the amount and value of the applications received. Applications for this level will undergo an initial assessment by a case officer including a discussion with you. The discussion may take place during an on-farm visit, depending on the options you have applied for. Your application is then considered by the Rural Payments and Inspections Division or NatureScot (formally Scottish Natural Heritage) for approval or rejection.
- Level 2 - this if for higher value applications above an agreed monetary value for the round. This agreed value is dependent on the amount and value of the applications received. Applications for this level will undergo an initial assessment as per level one. After assessment the case will be considered by an expert panel constituted on a national basis for approval or rejection.
Applications will be scored against selection criteria.
To apply to this scheme, you will first need to register with and then log in to Rural Payments and Services.
To ensure an effective use of scheme funds, you will normally be limited to a single application per year. However, an exception will apply for the management of designated sites, as well as for certain situations where land managers have widely separated areas of land.
More information on applications can be found in the following sections of the full scheme guidance:
If your application to the scheme is successful, you will be issued with a contract of up to five years setting out the approved work you can claim funding for.
You can submit your claim for the funding set out in the contract on completion of the work. Management options on your contract must be declared on your Single Application Form by the agreed date, on an annual basis, for the duration of your contract.
Capital items are claimed separately on the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme capital claim form and can only be claimed once you have completed the work.
Any capital expenditure incurred before your application to the scheme has been submitted is not eligible for payment.
More information on claims can be found in the Claims and payments section of the full scheme guidance.
Management option payments
Payments for management options will be paid annually in the year following submission of your Single Application Form.
For example, if you submit a claim in 2024 payment will be made in 2025.
Capital item payments
Payments for capital items will be made upon receipt of a valid claim with any relevant supporting documentation and following any inspection or administrative checks that may be required.
You will receive payment by BACS into your nominated bank account. All payments will be made in sterling.
More information on payments can be found in the Claims and payments section of the full scheme guidance.
If your application to join the scheme is successful, you will be subject to our inspections programme.
It is a condition of entry to this scheme that you must allow us to inspect your holding to check that the scheme rules are being met.
Inspections to check compliance will be carried out on a percentage of claims, chosen by risk analysis, prior to payment. Inspection visits will be co-ordinated by the relevant organisations to help reduce disruption at your farm or business.
More information on inspections can be found in the Inspections section of this site.
Specific information on inspections for management options and capital items is included on each option or item page.
If we discover that you have not followed the contract terms and conditions, we will call this a breach.
A breach can be identified in a number of different ways for example:
- through the automatic checking we carry out against your applications, claims, your land and allowances
- through an inspection
- following a check of the supporting documentation relating to a claim
More information on breaches and penalties relating to this scheme can be found in the full scheme guidance.
Further information on why we need to penalise breaches can be found below.
If you are not content with the approval decision relating to your application, you can request that we review the decision.
If you receive a decision to refuse, recover or reduce your payment, you may appeal this decision under the Rural Payments Appeal procedures.
If you are unhappy with our service as a whole, we have a dedicated complaints procedure to help you resolve this.
More information on reviews, appeals and complaints can be found in the following sections:
Check which options and items are available on your holding using the Targeting Tool below:
View a full list of management options and capital itemsClick here
Full scheme guidanceFull guidance
This scheme is delivered through:
Information added on AECS 2024 round, updated Targeting tool and removal of certain information related to previous rounds.
List of results for 2023 Application round