Just days after the urgent request from the NFU to complete remaining 2015 BPS payments, the NFUS highlight its disappointment with the continued payment delay for farmers and crofters as the Scottish Government ‘fails to improve hill sheep scheme’.
Thousands of Scottish hill farmers and crofters wait for almost £10 million as IT delays slow the delivery of payments due under the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS).
Scotland’s LFASS scheme deliver lifeline support to 11,500 farmers.
The Scottish Government had previously implemented a national fund to ensure £55 million – from a total budget of £65 million – reached claimants after the flawed IT system left a significant delay to the LFASS payments.
Payments under the national LFASS scheme bypassed the IT system and were based on payments made under LFASS in 2014. Most claimants received around 90 per cent of funds due with a balance payment promised by Scottish Government later in the year.
NFU Scotland’s LFA committee chairman Martin Kennedy, who farms in Highland Perthshire, said: “While Scottish Government’s intervention in the spring, by-passing the flawed IT system, saw a welcome injection of £55 million via the old LFASS data, the balance of
£10 million remains outstanding with no timetable for delivery.”
- Martin Kennedy, NFU Scotland’s LFA committee chairman
In a further blow for hill sheep farmers, Scottish Government had failed to take on any of the recommendations made by NFUS on how the new Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme (SUSSS) could be improved.
SUSSS aims to assist active hill farmers and crofters though a payment coupled to the number of ewe hoggs they keep.
“For many claimants, SUSSS is hugely important having been specifically designed to assist those keeping hill sheep in some of Scotland’s most extensive and remote parts.
“Scottish Government estimated that the payment rate in year one would be €100 per ewe hogg. The reality is that the payment rate was €78,” said Mr Kennedy.
NFUS believed Scottish Government had missed an opportunity to introduce a wider application period; a new retention period and to place an upper limit on the number of hoggs that could be claimed.
Mr Kennedy said: “We believed an upper claim limit based on a percentage of the breeding flock was required to help control over-claiming by those with an excess of ewe hoggs over and above the numbers they would normally require as flock replacements.
“By not adopting this measure, Scottish Government has increased the likelihood that rates will be further reduced for 2016 as some individuals may see it as an opportunity to exploit the scheme. That happened this year and it must not be allowed to happen again.”
The 2016 scheme opened on September 1 and closes on October 16.