ALMOST 20,000 applications for 2017 CAP payments were received from Scottish farmers before the May 15 deadline, ScotGov has confirmed. The vast majority of these were submitted online.

Cabinet secretary for rural economy, Fergus Ewing said: “So far we have received a provisional total of 19,862 applications for 2017 CAP payments before the deadline.

“In particular, I am pleased that we have had an increase in online applications. We have been investing in improving the system and figures show it was available for 98% of the application window.

“There has been a slight overall decrease in applications, continuing the trend in recent years," he noted. "We believe this may be a combination of changes to eligibility and some individuals with a very small payment deciding not to apply.

“For those who wish to make an application but have not met the deadline, it is still possible to submit a claim, which will be subject to a modest penalty reduction," he added.

“I can assure farmers and crofters that we continue to work on the application site to make it as easy as possible to submit your SAF online.”

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said: “It is encouraging that so many Scottish farmers and crofters have successfully met the SAF 2017 deadline of May 15. Due to IT problems, deadline extensions were necessary in both 2015 and 2016 but the improvement in the application process is welcome and has given more applicants the confidence to go through the process online.

“And there is a helpful reminder from Scottish Government that a window still exists for applicants to change existing claims and late claims can still be made, albeit with penalties attached," he noted.

“With the May 15 deadline met and the application process a month ahead of where we were last year and the year before, we want Scottish Government to build on that momentum and quickly issue a clear and accurate payments timetable to farmers and crofters to allow them to plan their expected cashflows in the year ahead.”