Highland cow grazing in a field© FLPA/Roger Tidman/REX/Shutterstock

The Scottish government has initiated support payments to 4,400 farmers from the £200m emergency funding pot announced last month following long delays in processing Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claims.

According to latest figures, by 13 April 12,402 (68%) of farmers had been paid through the normal computer system which draws down money from EU coffers.

However, by 18 April the government had lined up another 4,492 nationally funded BPS payments which are expected to arrive in farmers’ bank accounts next week.

More payments are expected to follow over the coming days.

See also: Emergency £200m BPS button pressed in Scotland

A spokesman for NFU Scotland (NFUS) said Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon had made a commitment that by the end of April all farmers would have received some sort of payment.

“With less than a fortnight to go, progress has been made but we will want assurances that payments will go to as many people as possible by the end of the month. By 30 April, the only people who are left should be those who have opted out.”

With less than a fortnight to go, progress has been made but we will want assurances that payments will go to as many people as possible by the end of the month. By 30 April, the only people who are left should be those who have opted out NFU Scotland

With a total claimant population in Scotland of 18,137, there is still a gap of 1,200 farms yet to be cleared for payment.

However, it has emerged that of the farmers offered a nationally funded payment so far, 113 have chosen to opt out and wait until their claim had been processed through the normal online system.

NFUS has said that the wording of the letter explaining the terms and conditions of the scheme may have proved off-putting for some.

Technically, the national payment is a cash advance or loan which will be offset against the claimant’s final CAP payment.

This means de minimis state aid rules apply, which have had to be explained in the terms and conditions, even though in practice very few farmers in Scotland risked breaching state aid rules.

“More people appear to have opted out than we envisaged,” said the spokesman.

The Scottish government has also confirmed that payments under the suckler beef support scheme should be with farmers by the end of April.