SCOTLAND’S beef farmers are becoming increasingly frustrated with the complications inherent in ScotGov's Beef Efficiency Scheme – and there is a rising clamour for both an admission of its failure and a fresh start.

The critical consensus is that the rules attached to the scheme destroyed its potential, with the Scottish Beef Association now poised ask CabSec Fergus Ewing to make better use of the money involved through an entirely re-invented scheme.

SBA chairman Neil McCorkindale told The Scottish Farmer: “The SBA remains disappointed, but not surprised, that more farmers are falling out of the BES scheme.

"I am meeting Mr Ewing next month and the scheme will be one of many things on the agenda. I know the Scottish Government is disappointed with the uptake and I will once again ask the question if there is anyway we could re-invent the scheme with something that is more palatable to beef farmers.

“I understand the difficulties this could have with farms who have signed up and already received payments but it is time to hold our hands up, admit it is a disaster, and see what can be done differently," said Mr McCorkindale. “I know a lot of large farms who are doing their own efficiency measures and not signed up. That just about sums it up.

“A pot of money that the Scottish Government managed to obtain going to waste does not look good for the Scottish beef industry.”

Asking not to be named, an Aberdeenshire beef producer said: “What started off as a great idea has been totally destroyed by the bureaucratic, confused scheme that has been cobbled together. In attempting to design a scheme to allegedly fit with current EU regulations, ScotGov have got into a hell of a mess.

“Is the scheme about increasing suckler cow numbers and making them more efficient to provide more raw material for processing or is it about the environment? The truth is no one, let alone the scheme designers, has a clue," said the anonymous producer.

“Accessing and completing the information database is difficult and cumbersome making the whole scheme very unfriendly for users, one of the reasons Mr Ewing was begging participants to complete this action before Christmas or face penalties."

Saying that, as it stood, the BES was a waste of taxpayers' money, the Aberdeenshire critic agreed that SciotGovv should scrap the BES and start again: "The Scottish beef industry is worth supporting – not strangling with an unworkable bureaucratic noose called the BES."

In response, a ScotGov spokesperson said: “The Beef Efficiency Scheme is new and unlike other CAP schemes. As such we recognise the difficulties encountered by some participants, and have been working closely with farmers and representative bodies to improve the scheme’s flexibility and practicality wherever possible. For example, we have offered early selections for the tagging of calves.

“Warning letters will also be issued whenever possible, offering a period of grace in which deficiencies can be rectified, without it impacting on BES payment."