LEADER Programme (Scotland)

Part of the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) 2014-20, LEADER is a bottom-up method of delivering support for rural development through implementing a local rural development strategy. Support is primarily aimed at small-scale, community-driven projects that are pilot and innovative in nature.

LEADER will account for 5% of the total SRDP allocation, and will deliver support of around £52m to rural areas. An additional £19.2m Convergence Funding has been awarded to 7 Local Action Groups in the Highlands and Islands in recognition of its previous status as a disadvantaged and remote are

Funding is awarded by LAGs, who take decisions on projects which are community driven and have a wide community benefit.

Full details of LAG allocations for 2014-20 are expected to be announced in Autumn 2015.


Before You Start

LEADER is one element of the Scotland Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 (SRDP) which aims to promote economic and community development within rural areas of Scotland. It replaces the previous LEADER+ European programme that ran between 2000-2006 and aims to encourage experimental approaches to rural development.

The LEADER Programme in Scotland is funded through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Scottish Government and is a bottom-up method of delivering rural development through supporting innovative, small-scale, community-driven projects. The overall aim is to increase the capacity of local rural community and business networks to build knowledge and skills, innovate and cooperate in order to tackle local development objectives.

Funding will be managed by Local Action Groups (LAGs) comprising representatives from local public, private and voluntary sectors. 16 Local Action Groups were announced in the first phase of the programme, with a further four LAGs announced during the second round.

LEADER will contribute to all three of the SRDP priority themes:

  • Axis 1 – Improving the competitiveness of the agricultural and forestry sector.
  • Axis 2 – Improving the environment and the countryside.
  • Axis 3 – Improving the quality of life in rural areas and diversification of the rural economy.

LEADER 2014-2020 includes many of the features of the previous programmes. This includes a distinctive, locally led approach implemented through Local Development Strategies by broad partnerships known as Local Action Groups.


In general, LEADER cannot support:

  • Retrospective funding.
  • Projects with a total cost of less than £1,000.
  • Activities that are the statutory responsibility of regional corporate bodies.
  • Prize money.
  • Financial charges and other legal expenses, such as:
    • Bank charges on accounts.
    • Service charges.
    • Costs involved in winding up a company.
    • Bad debts.
    • Fines, financial penalties and expenses of litigation.
    • Legal fees for advice, notary fees, and the costs of technical or financial expertise.
  • Recoverable VAT.
  • Staff related costs not directly related to the project, including:
    • Training that is mandatory under statutory provision.
    • Redundancy payments.
    • Payments for underfunded pensions.
    • Maternity or sick pay.
    • Existing core staff costs.
  • Expenditure related to research or studies carried out prior to the official project start date.
  • Volunteer costs.
  • Repairs and maintenance unless specifically covered by eligible costs definitions.
  • CCTV for town centres or as a stand-alone initiative.
  • Compensation for loss of office.
  • General running and overhead costs that are not directly related to the project.

What You Need To Know

Key Criteria

Applications are invited from constituted community groups, social enterprises, micro or small businesses, voluntary organisations or public sector bodies with a project idea that will benefit the rural community.

Individuals who have public support for their project, submitting proposals which implement the local strategy can also apply in some cases.

Applicants can seek assistance with their application from a coordinator, who will be employed by each LAG to facilitate projects under LEADER. The LAG coordinator will explain the conditions of grant and restrictions to applicants.

Applicants will need to supply a variety of information, details of which will depend on the nature of each project coming forward – examples might be; details of the community group and constitution, any planning permission or building warrant, estimates of equipment/services being provided, detailed proposals of the project including who is going to undertake the work, and letters of the community's own contribution and match funding being in place.

If a project is to have any success in gaining LEADER funding, then it has to have the buy-in of the community including financial support from public agencies. Public agencies such as the Local Enterprise Companies or local authorities will recognise and support developments benefiting communities.

Match Funding

Match funding must be in place before LEADER funding can be awarded.

Eligible Expenditure

Projects should be community-driven and aim to benefit a wide section of the community, rather than an individual.

The intention is to make the whole of rural Scotland eligible, including towns up to a population of 10,000.

Support will be aimed primarily at small-scale, community-driven projects that are pilot and innovative in nature.

Previous examples of local projects funded under LEADER include:

  • promoting quality food from Argyll at music festivals across the UK;
  • transforming a derelict swimming pool into a unique caving environment for use by young people in Falkirk and Stirling;
  • improving harbour access and increasing diver activity to boost tourism in Eyemouth; and
  • upgrading waterfront facilities to increase visitor numbers in the Shetland Isles.

How To Apply


Applicants should contact their LAG directly to discuss any terms and conditions that may apply.

Link to guidelines:


Useful information:

Contact the Scottish Government's LEADER Team or the local LAG for the latest information.