THE SCOTTISH Government has announced their earliest ever delivery of agricultural support payments to Scottish farmers and crofters – despite the challenges thrown at them by the current pandemic.

Addressing parliament on Wednesday, June 24, cabinet secretary Fergus Ewing MSP said that despite Covid-19 coming at a difficult time in the rural payments schedule – with extra pressure this year from the EU to deliver pillar two payments by the end of June instead of the usual October deadline – there was not a ‘single glitch or gap in the service’.

“At the earliest point ever under the CAP we have met the European Union’s statutory deadline for pillar one payments," reported Mr Ewing. "On June 12, 95.24% of basic payment scheme, greening and young farmer payments were made to Scotland’s farmers and crofters delivering £406m to the sector. I can further advise that the statutory target has also been met for our coupled support schemes, delivering a further £46m of support for livestock producers.”

As of Tuesday, June 23, the Scottish Government met the EU’s tighter deadline for pillar two payments, delivering over £82m in funding amounting to 95.7% of the total. Within this fund, nearly £45m in LFASS funds, equating to 96.8% of claims, has been delivered. All 2019 Beef Efficiency Scheme payments have been made and Mr Ewing said that ScotGov was only £100,000 away from delivering its agri-environment climate scheme payments, with £23m having already been delivered, equalling 94.3% of their target.

“If ever there was a year to make CAP payments smoothly and timeously this was it,” he continued. “Ensuring our crofters, farmers and land managers received their payments would mean they had the funding to cope throughout the pandemic, failure would have meant disaster for the rural economy.”

Speaking with The SF ahead of his parliamentary address, Mr Ewing commented: “We have worked hard as a team over the last year to tackle IT problems, to look at making fairer rules, simplifying some of the processes and improving work performance overall.

"There has been a huge effort by the people working in RPID offices through the country who understand how important the work is that they do to our rural economy. Our IT teams have been especially hardworking to sort out the problems of administering a scheme which is fiendishly complicated.”

Responding to two questions in the chamber on whether or not the Scottish Government will announce another loan scheme this Autumn, he replied: “The loan scheme works very well and therefore is not a huge administrative issue. It does involve recalculation of claims and extra work but that isn’t the main issue. The main issue is farming is getting money earlier and surely that is a good thing, but we will come back to this in due course.”