The Scottish government has said it is doing all it can to pay farmers ahead of the EU’s 30 June Basic Payment Scheme deadline – but admitted it has asked the European Commission for flexibility.
Payment progress continues to be slow, with 86% of 2015 payments now made to 15,600 farmers to a total value of £204m.
The figures mean that since 25 May the government has paid fewer than 400 additional farmers.
A government spokesman said the potential for flexibility on the deadline was discussed by first minister Nicola Sturgeon, rural affairs secretary Fergus Ewing and EU farm commissioner Paul Hogan during a recent meeting.
“Whether or not the deadline is extended, we are working to get remaining payments made as quickly as possible and there will be no let-up in effort.”
NFU Scotland chief executive Scott Walker said any shift in the European deadline for making payments would be good news for the Scottish taxpayer, as it would lessen the risk of a penalty, which the recent Audit Scotland report estimated could cost the Scottish government £40-£125m.
“However, any deadline shift must not be used as an excuse for the Scottish government to delay the payment of outstanding 2015 monies or progressing the 2016 scheme,” he said.
“With many millions of pounds still outstanding, we will be looking to the Scottish government to have made significant inroads into filling the substantial hole that remains in the Scottish rural economy by the time the Royal Highland Show starts on 23 June.”
The Scottish government has also confirmed that to date, 16,758 out of a total of about 18,000 2016 Single Application Forms (SAF) have been submitted by farmers and crofters.
Farmers in Scotland were given an extra month to submit their BPS applications because of mapping problems.
The same deadline – 15 June – also applies for applications to Scotland’s Beef Efficiency Scheme, which is worth an estimated £40m over five years.