Scottish Government offers farmers a £300m lifeline following BPS failures
Farmers in Scotland have been offered a £300 million lifeline which could provide 80 per cent of their Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) entitlement in November.
While some groups said the Scottish Government’s announcement on Tuesday was an ’admission of failure’ over the flawed IT system set up to deliver BPS, NFU Scotland said the interest-free loan would bring cash-strapped farmers some respite.
Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Fergus Ewing said his Government had ‘learned lessons’ from the mistakes of 2015.
"This new loan scheme will provide much needed cashflow for normal business costs such as wages, such as feed and seed, such as fuel and fertiliser, at a time of year when these bills often start landing on the doorstep," he said.
Mr Ewing said 80 per cent would be paid in November and hoped the remainder would go out early next year.
However, he could only guarantee payments would be made within the EU payment window next June.
NFUS president Allan Bowie said: "Knowing that up to 80 per cent of your support package will be delivered in early November gives clarity and certainty to farm businesses.
"The bitter legacy of the flawed 2015 payment run continues and the Cabinet Secretary again apologised for the problems, some of which still remain.
The Scottish Conservatives said the Scottish National Party’s inability to guarantee payments for next year was a ’slap in the face’ for farmers.
Peter Chapman, the Scottish Conservative rural affairs spokesman, said the loans were an admission of failure.
"The Minister has said we need certainty going forward, but he has just confirmed what we all expected – the IT system still does not work and is not expected to work until well into next year.
"He cannot deliver 100 per cent payments in December as we should expect – instead he has to offer an 80 per cent loan for November."
In England and Wales, Defra has also committed to ‘learn lessons’ from the 2015 BPS roll out.
The Rural Payments Agency has stated its aspiration is to pay 90 per cent of BPS 2016 claims by December 31.