Firing the starting gun, rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing assured producers that avoiding any repeat of previous years’ problems remained his number one priority and urged applicants not to leave their claims until the last minute.
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Stating that three-quarters of farmers and crofters had filed online last year, he added that paper applications would still be accepted.
“However, the online application is designed to simplify the process by automatically checking applications for errors – reducing the risk of financial penalties – and enabling farmers to access and update their business and land information at the touch of a button,” said Ewing.
But with 2016 payments yet to be made in full, he thanked producers for their patience and promised that his department was pulling out all the stops to ensure that all remaining payments would reach bank accounts “as soon as possible”.
With the spring rush fast approaching, NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick also encouraged farmers to prioritise filling in their forms.
However, he said the union was keen to hear when balance payments for 2016 basic premium and greening schemes would be made –along with those still outstanding from 2015.
McCornick also called for producers to receive a clear statement outlining exactly what money had already been paid to individuals and under what schemes.
“While we genuinely appreciate the efforts and commitment from many people within the Scottish Government to put right what has been an appalling IT fiasco, it is farm businesses that continue to be stretched,” he said.