Millions of pounds of taxpayers' money is still being claimed on Scottish land without any requirement for it to be productive with livestock or crops, according to figures obtained by The Scottish Farmer.

So-called 'slipper farmer' claimants are activating Basic Payment Scheme and Greening payments worth around €240/hectare for land under the ‘alternative production’ rules. This year the Scottish Government is in line to pay out over £15,000,000 on land where the claimant is not actively growing crops or raising livestock.

The biggest amount of Government cash is being spent in the 60,000 hectares of region one land which will be getting around £210/h this year. Some of the ‘alternative production’ land will be under forestry and environmental schemes, but much of that region one payment category will be landlords claiming entitlement on grass lets.

Under this system, a landlord doing no farming on the land will receive a rent for its use, plus a BPS and Greening payment regularly worth over £500/hectare. As reported last week, summer grazing prices have been on the rise, with many fields selling for between £150 to 200/acre. This leaves many inactive ‘farmers’ more profitable than those trying to produce food.

The Scottish Farmer has spoken to some of the next generation farmers, who without land of their own are obliged to base their entire businesses on grass lets, but do not get a pound of support on any of that land from the various schemes left over from the CAP and administered by the Scottish Government.

Other uses for land claiming BPS and greening without crop or stock include environmental schemes, where farmers are paid to keep stock away from sensitive ecosystems and new forestry plantations. One large Highland estate has dramatically reduced stock numbers to rewild the landscape and was awarded nearly £1m of government grants to plant trees. Despite the dramatic fall in livestock numbers on the estate, it is still in receipt of over £420,000 of BPS and Greening payments.

In all, Scotland has 120,000 of region three ground which is paid BPS and Greening through ‘alternative production'. To activate the entitlements with no livestock or cropping, the claimant must 'carry out an annual Environmental Assessment across the whole or part of the holding'.

Read more: No more slipper farmers!

Whereas in region one, the land where the claimant has no livestock or crop must at least be maintained actively in a state suitable for grazing or cultivation. This means the farmer must carry out various actions, depending upon the type of land – on areas of permanent grassland, they must be able to demonstrate maintenance of existing stock-proof boundaries and water sources for livestock, whilst on arable land, they must take action to prevent the encroachment of scrub.

For years EU rules have stipulated that payments should be available for claimants who are not actively producing food to prevent support being production linked. However, outside of the EU, more flexibility should be available to policymakers than ever before.