SCOTLAND’S FARMERS should not have to wait until next April for the UK Government to deliver the £160 million earmarked for correcting the 'historic injustice' of misallocated convergence payments.

That was the message spelt out this week by Scotland’s rural economy minister, Fergus Ewing, who urged the UK Government to 'get the cheque in the post'.

But while he accepted that autumn spending reviews were normally delivered in April, he said the offer to correct the convergence issue was different: “This was an admission by the UK Government that they got it wrong – and that they have to rectify the mistake.”

But stating that he acknowledged the honesty and sincerity of the Prime Minister and Chancellor’s statements on the issue, Mr Ewing said while he didn’t want to be alarmist, he also worried that if there was an intervening general election then an incoming administration might not be bound by the decision.

Speaking at a press briefing, he admitted that there was considerable work to be done by his own department on how the money was to be best used – but he hoped that, once the basics had been agreed, a scheme to distribute the convergence money could be drawn up in 'weeks rather than months'.

And while ongoing work to draw up a scheme for distributing the cash involved close discussions with the industry, he said there would be no formal consultation process: “We have a fair idea of those who have lost out.”

He also said that there would be no back-payments for those who had left the industry, declaring that the monies should be seen as an investment in the future of Scottish farming, payable to active crofters and farmers.

Ewing indicated that 'the lion’s share' would be made by direct payments – but added that other options viewed as a sensible investment would also be considered.

While the means of payment should be fair and sensible, he said there was general agreement that the mixed livestock cattle and sheep sectors needed support – especially where the practices were sustainable and helped offer a solution to climate change.

The cabinet secretary also urged anyone who had yet to return their form accepting the offer of a loan under the current national basic payment scheme to do so quickly – and he revealed that farmers and crofters who replied by next Friday (September 27) should receive an up-front loan of 95% of their dues made in the first tranche of payments – set to be rolled out on October 4.

Claiming that the early payments of the loans was 'the single biggest mitigation against a no deal Brexit anywhere in the UK', Mr Ewing said that putting money in bank was the best thing he could do to help give the industry confidence that they would be able to pay their bills.

To date, €353 million of the €400 million offered had already been applied for by over 12,500 producers of the 16,800 offered the facility.