30 June 2000

Pilot aims to reduce subsidy claim errors

HUNDREDS of Scottish farmers have volunteered to take part in a pilot scheme aimed at reducing paperwork and subsidy claim errors.

As well as revealing what he called the "positive response from the farming community", Scottish rural affairs minister Ross Finnie used the Highland Show to announce that the Scottish Executive has appointed an information technology consultant. The consultants role will be to help the industry to adopt electronic data transfer (EDT) as much as possible.

The pilot scheme about to be launched, with the 250 farmers selected from the 500 volunteers, will allow farmers to submit their suckler cow premium claims electronically. The software used can also spot minor errors before the forms are sent, thereby eliminating the frustration of claims being returned due to simple mistakes.

"Cutting the red tape facing farmers is one of my top priorities," Mr Finnie said. "I am very encouraged by the positive response from the farming community to our appeal for volunteers to take this exciting IT pilot forward.

"It demonstrates that Scottish farmers are willing to embrace innovation wherever it affects them and their businesses."

If successful, the technology will gradually be made available for all subsidy claims.

On the opening day of the show, Mr Finnie admitted that the industry had suffered "the most severe battering" in recent years. But he hoped producers were walking about the show with their heads held high. "Because this is the showpiece of Scottish agriculture and food and there is so much to be proud of," he said. &#42

Ross Finnie… Said the show had on offer some of the highest quality food in the world.