FARMERS and crofters should expect their next agri-support payments 'the same time or, in some cases, earlier' under ScotGov's Rural Payments Strategy for 2020-21.

Setting out the strategy for payments to farmers and crofters in Parliament, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said:“Throughout this difficult year our people across the agriculture industry have continued to work tirelessly to put food on the table for the people of our nation and they have our heartfelt thanks.

“We want to provide them with the financial support and certainty that they need to continue their work and support our wider rural economy. We have been the first part of the UK to start getting 2020 monies out to farmers and crofters. Our intention with this strategy is to make payments at the same time or, in some cases, earlier than last year," said Mr Ewing.

“It is important to note that we set this strategy with confidence that we will meet these timelines but there are some risks to delivery that remain. The ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic remains a challenge as well as the disruptive effect of a disorderly Brexit. With so many unknowns and the potential for a 'no deal' Brexit, the strategy may be at risk if we need to deliver emergency support at short notice. But we will do everything we can to ensure farmers and crofters get their support payments on time.”

Rural business organisation Scottish Land and Estates' policy adviser Eleanor Kay welcomed Mr Ewing's statement: “Rural payments will be made to businesses one or two months earlier than they were delivered this year, news which will be welcome to farmers and land managers as they look at cash flow projections ahead of our imminent EU departure.

“These are vital support funds and it is important that we see all claimants have their payments expedited at a time of considerable uncertainty.

“Less Favoured Area Support Scheme payments will be topped up by the convergence funding allocations, once again highlighting the importance of supporting farming and land management in the uplands. Moving forward, we need to soon consider how we continue to reward upland farmers for all the environmental and societal benefits they deliver once LFASS is replaced.”