Row grows over ‘delayed’ support scheme payments

Richard Lochhead said officials were working relentlessly to process payments. Picture: John Devlin
Richard Lochhead said officials were working relentlessly to process payments. Picture: John Devlin
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The delay in paying out farm support cash continued to dominate the farming scene in Scotland yesterday.

The government claimed that more than one in three farmers had now received basic payment scheme (BPS) cash, while NFU Scotland called on the politicians to immediately address the cash flow crisis in Scottish agriculture by delivering the majority of the payment to all claimants.

The union countered the government claim that 35 per cent of farmers had received BPS by pointing out in many cases the amount paid was only a part payment. In addition, most of the transactions were at the lower end of the scale.

“It is likely that significantly less than 35 per cent per cent of the total pot of available funding has been distributed meaning that the cash crisis on farms is deepening,” the union said.

It called for 90 per cent of payments to be paid to 90 per cent of recipients in order to avert a worsening crisis for the whole Scottish rural economy.

READ MORE: Lochhead faces threshing over late payment fiasco

However, rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead claimed such a move would not be allowed by Europe.

“The fact of the matter is that EU rules expressly prohibit paying out on claims during the December 1 to June 30 payment window until they have been fully processed,” he said, but then admitted: “The extreme complexity of the policy in Scotland means it is taking longer than expected to process applications.”

He added that his officials had been working relentlessly and were doing everything in their power including deploying additional staff to area offices and processing applications seven days a week to pay as many first instalments as possible by the end of March with the balance of payments as soon as possible after that.

The union call came after an on-farm meeting in South Lanarkshire with representatives of key supply trades – agricultural machinery, feed and fertilisers.

Those in the allied industries made it clear that many firms were currently supplying extended credit facilities to their customers and were “carrying the can” for the government failure.