Additional telephone support will be provided over the weekend to help farmers in Scotland complete their Single Application Form (SAF).
Rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead has confirmed that area offices will be providing additional telephone support for farmers and crofters between 10am and 3pm next Saturday and Sunday (13 and 14 June).
The deadline for applications is midnight on 15 June 2015.
By Tuesday 9 June, 14,726 forms had been submitted, representing two-thirds of the total number expected. This compares with 53% of applications submitted with one week to go last year.
“We know that the days leading up to the closure of the SAF window are traditionally the busiest – with almost half of last year’s SAFs submitted in the final week before the deadline,” said Mr Lochhead.
“Although we are ahead of that tally this year, farmers and crofters should not leave it until the last minute to get their forms in.
“To help with this, I can confirm today that all local area offices will be open to receive telephone queries between 10am and 3pm on Saturday and Sunday, in addition to normal opening hours between now and the SAF deadline at midnight on Monday. The Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs Committee and others have urged us to deliver as much support as we can for farmers to ensure they submit their forms by the deadline and that’s why we are providing additional support at local offices for the final weekend.”
Mr Lochhead said he appreciated the forbearance of farmers and agents who had been experiencing issues with the Rural Payments and Services online application system, which the Scottish government had been working flat out to sort.
NFU Scotland chief executive Scott Walker said feedback from members who had completed their SAF application online suggested that many had called local SGRPID offices for much-needed and welcome help in completing the new forms.
With six days left to apply, the additional phone support at local offices would be a key factor in getting the final tranche of potential applicants successfully signed up.
“The deadline for making agri-environment (AECS) applications to Scotland’s Rural Development Scheme remains Friday 12 June,” he added. “That overlap with SAF applications has created pressure and concern that uptake of this important scheme will be low.
“For those who meet the AECS deadline, local area offices will now accept supporting documentation, such as the farm environment assessments, up until 30 June. We continue to monitor AECS applications and if uptake proves to be poor, we will urge Scottish government to consider an application extension.”