Three-quarters of Scottish farmers are still waiting for their Basic Payments, prompting NFU Scotland to seek help from the Scottish Parliament about the ’calamitous state’ of the BPS system.
The latest payment run to 1,000 farmers took the total who have now received their initial part payment to 4,500 out of 17,500 Scottish BPS claimants.
This equated to just over 25 per cent, with only a few days in January left. The Scottish Government’s first target was to have paid 25 per cent by the end of 2015.
Last week, as he unveiled the figures, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said the Scottish Government was still aiming to make first payments to the majority of farmers by the end of January.
He said: "Officials are continuing to work flat-out to ensure payments are made as quickly as possible.
"We are still aiming to pay the majority of farmers and crofters by the end of January, and to do all we can to avoid or minimise any delays to other payment schemes.
But NFUS has written to the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment (RACCE) about what it described as ’the calamitous state of Scotland’s system for delivering support payments to farmers and crofters’.
It has asked the committee to question Mr Lochhead 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 said it believed the 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 merited further investigation by the RACCE committee.
NFU Scotland has also told the Scottish Government it believes delivery of 90 per cent of payment to 90 per cent of claimants by the end of January is ’still achievable’.
But this would require it to ’take calculated risks in the interests of Scottish agriculture, and its many farmers and crofters, who are currently at breaking point’, the union said.
In his letter, NFUS president Allan Bowie said: “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."
Mr Bowie said NFUS had real concerns about the outstanding payments that remain for other 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.
He added: "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.”