Gov­ern­ment aims to make sub­sidy pay­ments by end of year

The Oban Times - - Farming -

THE SCOT­TISH Gov­ern­ment is work­ing to­wards a tar­get of mak­ing farm sub­sidy pay­ments by the end of the year, de­spite fears that it will miss this tar­get.

Ru­ral af­fairs sec­re­tary, Richard Lochhead, said: ‘I would like to re­as­sure farm­ers and crofters that the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s aim is still to be­gin mak­ing ba­sic pay­ments by the end of the year. Our po­si­tion has not changed, and we con­tinue to work flat out to try to make this hap­pen.

‘ We are im­ple­ment­ing the big­gest CAP re­form in a gen­er­a­tion, which is con­sid­er­ably more com­plex than the former pol­icy, and at the same time mov­ing to area-based pay­ments as re­quired by the EU.

‘As NFUS Pres­i­dent Al­lan Bowie has ac­knowl­edged, the NFUS made clear dur­ing the CAP ne­go­ti­a­tions that we had to get the pol­icy de­ci­sions right even if that meant more com­plex­ity and an im­pact on tim­ing in the first year.

‘This means we now have around four mil­lion one-hectare pay­ment en­ti­tle­ments to is­sue – cov­er­ing around 400,000 fields – and around 21,000 Sin­gle Ap­pli­ca­tion Form ap­pli­ca­tions to process, as well as 1,300 farms to in­spect. Like many other ad­min­is­tra­tions across Europe that are in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion, the scale of the chal­lenge we are fac­ing here in Scot­land is clearly for­mi­da­ble, but the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to pull out all the stops to be able to make pay­ments as soon as pos­si­ble.’

He con­tin­ued: ‘I said in June that we were ex­plor­ing op­tions, in­clud­ing mak­ing pay­ments in two in­stal­ments, as the EU reg­u­la­tions per­mit and as was done at the start of the last CAP re­form. That op­tion is very much on the ta­ble. The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment also con­tin­ues to press the EU Com­mis­sion for flex­i­bil­ity on the in­spec­tion re­quire­ments for pay­ments to be made in the nor­mal pay­ment win­dow af­ter De­cem­ber 1, al­though time is run­ning out for this to be of any ben­e­fit.

The min­is­ter’s words did lit­tle to re­as­sure NFU Scot­land’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, Scott Walker, who said: ‘There is noth­ing new in this state­ment by Richard Lochhead. This pro­vides no re­as­sur­ance to farm­ers about when they will get paid or how much they will re­ceive.’

Mr Lochhead plans to meet with farm­ing lead­ers next week, as he ex­plained: ‘I recog­nise and am sen­si­tive to the cash flow is­sues fac­ing Scot­tish agriculture, and so I in­tend to meet in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the Novem­ber 17, where I will up­date them on the lat­est sit­u­a­tion.’

Mr Walker replied: ‘Our mem­bers want clar­ity and open­ness from the cabi­net sec­re­tary on what is the sit­u­a­tion re­gard­ing pay­ments. Call­ing a meet­ing for Novem­ber 17 means more un­cer­tainty for farm­ers and those who ser­vice our in­dus­try be­fore we re­ceive more news.’

The EU pay­ment win­dow runs from 1 De­cem­ber to June. Just over 21,000 Sin­gle Ap­pli­ca­tion Forms were re­ceived by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment, of which around 19,160 in­clude claims for the Ba­sic and Green­ing pay­ments.

Ru­ral af­fairs sec­re­tary,

Richard Lochhead.

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