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Committee Help Sought In Bid to Secure Payment Timetable

NFU Scotland has written again to the lead rural affairs committee in the Scottish Parliament about the calamitous state of Scotland’s system for delivering support payments to farmers and crofters.

It has asked the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment (RACCE) Committee to consider questioning the Cabinet Secretary and his team on the significant delays and confusion that has been experienced since its last statement of November 2015, and to press for a revised timetable.

The Union first wrote to the RACCE Committee on Scottish Government’s delivery of the CAP Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in October 2015. The Cabinet Secretary’s statement to RACCE, made in November 2015, read: “The first instalment will be worth a minimum of 70 per cent of the total value of Basic Payment Scheme, Greening and Young Farmer payments. The first payments, to about a quarter of claimants, should start to arrive in bank accounts by the end of the year.  The majority of farmers should receive their initial payment by the end of January, with virtually all first instalments expected to be paid by the end of March. The balance of payments is due to be settled in April.”

In reality, payments were issued to some 3,500 businesses (out of about 17,500 BPS claimants) on 31 December equating to 20 per cent of claimants and far short of the Scottish Government’s target of 25 per cent receiving payment by the end of 2015.

With a further payment run to some 1,000 businesses announced last week, that still only takes the percentage of businesses that have received any element of their support payment to just over 25 per cent with only a few days in January left..

NFU Scotland believes failure of the Scottish Government to meet its targets and the confusion being generated by the advice being given to the industry on payments and entitlements merits further investigation by the RACCE committee.

NFU Scotland has made clear to the Scottish Government that delivery of 90 per cent of payment to 90 per cent of claimants by the end of January is still achievable, if the government were willing to take calculated risks in the interests of Scottish agriculture, and its many farmers and crofters, who are currently at breaking point.

In his letter to the Committee, President Allan Bowie points out: “Clearly there is still a significant majority of claimants who are still completely in the dark as to when they will receive payment. This situation leaves NFUS and many others in serious doubt as to whether Scottish Government will issue initial payments to a majority of farmers and crofters by the end of January, and must put the remainder of the payments timetable in jeopardy.

“This issue has been exacerbated by the significant confusion caused by the Scottish Government’s distribution of Illustration of Entitlements letters. The letters fail to adequately explain the process in plain English, and do not match up entitlements with what members will be paid.

“Scottish Government has also failed to inform any Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) 2015 applicants whether applications have been approved or rejected – let alone issuing contracts so that work can commence. In addition, IT failures mean that AECS 2016 has not opened as planned on 11 January.

“Equally, applicants to the Young Farmers and New Entrants start-up and capital grants schemes have no idea whether their proposals have been successful in securing much-needed funding to ensure their fledgling businesses can take off.

“Aside from the devastating impact that delayed basic payments will have on farming businesses and the rural economy – a significant number of which have seen severe damage and disruption in this winter’s floods – we now have real concerns about the outstanding payments that remain for other essential schemes such as the Less Favoured Area Support, beef calf and ewe hogg headage schemes, and Land Managers Options and Rural Priorities payments for 2015.

“And with applications to the new BPS scheme year due to open shortly and be completed by the middle of May, producer confidence in the whole electronic application system is already at a very low ebb.

“The committee’s support in securing much-needed clarity would be welcome at this challenging time for the industry.”  

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 23/16


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