Almost three-quarters of farm businesses have now received their full farm support payments for 2015, figures released yesterday showed.
Claiming “significant progress” in recent weeks, rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing told the Scottish Parliament that payments had now been processed to more than 16,400 farmers and crofters – meaning that nine-tenths of claimants had received at least part of their dues.
In answer to a parliamentary question, he said that more than £85 million had been paid out during the past month and over the past week an additional £67m of top-up payments had been paid out – meaning more than 13,500 businesses had now been paid in full.
But the figures would indicate that, with the total payout standing at £28m, Scotland would still have found itself facing penalties if the EU had not extended the payment window beyond the original cut-off date of June 30.
NFU Scotland president Allan Bowie commended the progress though, stating that Ewing was driving “a far more focused effort” to bring to an end what he termed the payment debacle brought about by the “deeply flawed” IT system.
However, Bowie added that those still awaiting final payment had a legitimate expectation that they would have received their monies by the end of this month and would be understandably angry, a situation which would see the union maintain the pressure until all outstanding payments had been delivered.
But the Brexit situation was also likely to have been on the agenda when the union held private discussions with the cabinet secretary yesterday afternoon.
Speaking at a meeting of Holyrood’s rural economy committee earlier in the day, Ewing said that despite the shock of the referendum vote, Scotland remained firmly in the EU and that he was determined Scotland would continue to be an attractive place to do business.
“For now, everything continues as normal in terms of the systems that are running. The CAP regime remains in place and payments continue to be made.”
He said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was exploring options to reflect how people in Scotland had voted and to secure a continuing place in the EU, adding she had also made it clear that the Scottish Government should be fully involved in all decisions.