George Eustice©Tim Scrivener/Rex

Senior officials from the Scottish government have visited the Rural Payments Agency in Berkshire to learn from the mistakes made in 2005 when England switched from a historic to area-based subsidy system.

English farmers suffered long payment delays and the government was fined millions of pounds by Brussels for failing to meet targets.

One of the officials, Scotland’s newly-appointed chief agricultural officer David Barnes, said he was doing everything in his power to ensure Scottish farmers would receive their CAP payments in 10 months’ time, at the beginning of December.

“We have built and launched the software for registering claims and other software is currently being built. Hundreds of people are working on and testing the system in Edinburgh.”
David Barnes

See also: RPA promises record early SPS payments for England

“We have built and launched the software for registering claims and other software is currently being built. Hundreds of people are working on and testing the system in Edinburgh,” he said.

“However, it is extremely complex and has to take account of situations where a farmer may be claiming under several schemes, such as Basic Payments, Young Farmers, coupled support and agri-environment schemes. Each has its own rules and we have to get the computer to check every one of the rules that apply to a particular piece of land to ensure each is complied with. We have a schedule to get everything in place to make payments in December.”

Defra agriculture minister George Eustice (pictured) said his Scottish counterpart, rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead, had also visited the RPA to “learn lessons”.

Mr Eustice added: “We made a lot of expensive and difficult mistakes. We understand where we went wrong and want to share our painful experiences.”