Debt-hit Scottish farmers are calling on their government to “drop its aversion to risk” and deliver part-payments to all Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claimants left waiting for cash.
Up to Wednesday 3 February, the Scottish government had made more than 6,000 direct payments of the estimated 18,000 eligible claims.
It means that since the payment run began on 1 December, just 35% of eligible applicants in Scotland have received their BPS payment.
These are first instalments of about 80% of the value of the BPS and greening payments. The balance is expected to be paid by the end of April.
NFU Scotland has repeatedly called on the government to recognise its £180m BPS computer delivery system is badly flawed.
It said only immediate steps to deliver 90% of payments to 90% of recipients could avert a worsening crisis for the whole Scottish rural economy.
Tom French, NFU Scotland’s regional chairman for Forth and Clyde, hosted an event at his farm, Balgray Farm, Crawfordjohn in south Lanarkshire, on Monday (8 February) to highlight the impact of the late delivery of Basic Payments to farm businesses and the wider Scottish agricultural industry.
Clydesdale MSP Aileen Campbell and MSP for the South of Scotland Claudia Beamish were present at the meeting, which brought together farmers and representatives of key supply trades, including agricultural machinery, feed and fertiliser
Mr French said: “We knew 2016 would be a difficult year as we changed to the new CAP regime but we now have the perfect storm of low commodity prices, poor weather and severe delay in getting support payments out to the industry.
“Every day is adding further costs but much of that burden is currently being carried by those businesses who supply us. Bills traditionally settled in December are going unpaid and orders are drying up.
“The message to Scottish government is: put your aversion to risk aside and do all you can to get the vast majority of payments out the door to the vast majority of businesses.”
NFUS vice-president Andrew McCornick added: “The only way Scottish government can properly address this crisis is to drop its aversion to risk, and deliver part-payment to all claimants in the next few weeks. If you can issue a letter of entitlement, you can issue part-payment.”
But Scottish rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead has ruled out making part-payments until claims have been fully processed.
“The fact of the matter is that EU rules expressly prohibit paying out on claims during the 1 December to 30 June payment window until they have been fully processed – and the extreme complexity of the policy in Scotland means it is taking longer than expected to process applications,” said the minister.
“We are doing everything in our power – including deploying additional staff to area offices and processing applications seven days a week – to pay as many first instalments as we can by the end of March and the balance of payments as soon as possible after that.”
Anyone who is concerned about their own payment should contact their local area office or the Scottish government’s customer helpline on 0300 300 2222.