Union writes to Scottish Parliament committee on support payments

With Scottish farmers and crofters facing delayed and reduced direct support payments, NFU Scotland has written to the Scottish Parliament’s lead committee on rural affairs to express its concerns.

The Union has asked whether the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment (RACCE) Committee might consider holding an extraordinary session in which to establish the anticipated timeline for payments to be made in Scotland.

Despite Scottish Government statements to the contrary, NFU Scotland does not believe that CAP support payments under the new Basic Payment Scheme will be delivered in the normal December window. The Union has called for Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead to make a public statement on when farmers will receive their payments, what the value of those payments will be, and to consider making part payments later this year.

Delivery of CAP support is an area that the RACCE Committee has taken a keen interest in, holding an evidence session on 3 June and writing to the Cabinet Secretary at that time on a number of CAP delivery issues, including the payment timetable.

Commenting on his letter to RACCE, NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie said: “Whilst the Cabinet Secretary has sought to allay fears that the payment schedule will slip, Scottish Government’s message has shifted from payments being delivered in ‘early December’ to ‘late December’, and we are now convinced that these payments will not be made until 2016.

“We also note with interest that yesterday (13 October), the Rural Payments Agency gave an unambiguous statement to the NFU council meeting that it will commence paying the new Basic Payment Scheme in full to farmers in England in December, with the majority receiving payment by the end of that month and the vast majority of payments completed by the end of January. Scottish farmers and crofters – and all those who provide goods and services to our sectors – would benefit hugely from a similar clear statement on payment timetables for Scotland to allow them to plan their businesses accordingly.

“I am sure that the Committee will recognise the knock-on impact any significant delay could have in the longer term for Scottish rural economies, employment and confidence within the industry. A payment timetable is important, but it is equally essential that farmers receive clarity on what the value of their claims will be, so they can effectively plan for any cuts that will have to be made in the coming year. Most claimants are bracing themselves for significantly lower receipts but only once Scottish Government meets its obligation to notify farmers of their entitlement values will the scale of the cutbacks become apparent.”

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