Scottish farm land© Rex Features/Design Pics Inc

The Scottish government has extended the deadline for farmers to submit their Single Application Forms (SAF). The new date for completed SAF returns is 15 June.

Announcing the move, rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead said: “I have decided to extend the Scottish application window by a month until 15 June, subject to the approval of EU legislation, which is expected next week.”

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Mr Lochhead acknowledged the concerns raised by farmers and crofters about the complexity of the new system.

The system has presented significant challenges in Scotland and across Europe – as shown by agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan’s decision to allow a four-week extension to the application window, he said.

But he added that the Scottish government would make every effort to stick to the payment schedule.

“As part of our efforts to make payments as soon as possible we will look at all flexibilities permitted within the EU rules and I strongly encourage the EU to give additional flexibility, particularly around the inspection regime, which has already been called for by other member states.

“Of course, paper copies of the forms have always been and continue to be available to farmers and crofters” Mr Lochhead said.

“We will also continue to respond to reports of issues with the IT system as quickly as we can and liaise regularly with industry representatives to ensure the views of farmers and crofters are taken on board every step of the way,” he added.

A Scottish government official pointed out that farmers must not leave applications beyond 15 June. 

Unlike the normal May deadline there is no scope to make adjustments to late submissions after 15 June, the official said.

The official added that the current closing date of the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme of 12 June 2015 was not affected by the SAF deadline change.