The Scottish Government has been lambasted after it admitted only a quarter of Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claimants could be paid by the end of the year.
Farmers reacted angrily to the announcement at this week’s AgriScot event, where Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said payments would be made in two instalments of 70 per cent and 30 per cent.
The minister said the majority of farmers would receive their 70 per cent part-payment by the end of January, but some will not receive the first tranche of BPS until the end of March.
The balance payment of 30 per cent is to be delivered to all by the end of April, just a few weeks before farmers and crofters submit their claim forms for the 2016 scheme.
NFU Scotland said it meant farmers faced a ‘payment-run lottery’ at a time when many were feeling the effects of dwindling cashflows.
NFU Scotland president Allan Bowie said: “NFU Scotland has been given a clear mandate by its membership that the only acceptable outcome for delivery of the new BPS was for at least 90 per cent of claimants to receive at least 90 per cent of their funding by mid-January 2016.
“With this announcement, we are a long way short of what farmers and crofters need and, given the hugely difficult year, disappointment in this timetable will be immense.”
Mr Bowie said the situation was ‘categorically unacceptable’ and did nothing to help those crippled by the lowest commodity prices since 2005/06.
The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA) said some in the tenanted sector had been dealt a double blow by landlords seeking rent hikes prior to the introduction of the Land Reform Bill.
NFUS is now calling on the Scottish Government to give assurances that failures to deliver direct support will have no knock-on effects on other vital schemes including Less Favoured Areas support, beef calf and ewe hogg coupled schemes and agri-environment application approvals.
Mr Lochhead blamed the delay on the complexities of implementing the new area based system brought about by the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
He said: “There can be no doubt the three payment regions and coupled support schemes requested by industry – as well as the move to area-based payments required by Europe – have greatly added to our enormous administrative challenge but the message I always got was that this is a price worth paying to deliver a better policy for Scotland.
“To put this in context – these EU changes mean that we now have around four million payment entitlements to issue - covering around 400,000 fields - and around 21,000 Single Application Form applications to process, as well as 1,300 farms to inspect. There is still a great deal to do.”
Mr Lochhead said the government was due to launch a telephone guidance and information service for claimants.
He will also be meeting with the banking sector to seek assurances about the support they are offering farmers.