SCOTTISH FARMERS have now received 96% of their 2017 claim year CAP pillar one payments, amounting to more than £387 million, distributed across around 17,150 eligible persons.

Farmers had already received up to 90% of their entitlement under the advance loan scheme which was announced last November, and ScotGov are now focusing on delivering the remaining payments as soon as possible.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing welcomed the progress: “I am pleased that we have delivered over £387 million for Basic Payment Support, Greening and Young Farmer payments for the 2017 scheme year to over 96% of our customers.

"This means we have achieved the payment target of 95.24% for Basic Payment Support, Greening and Young Farmer payments for the 2017 scheme. The fact that these payments have been made on time, clearly demonstrates the progress we are making in delivering CAP payments, which support jobs and investment across the rural economy during what is the most challenging time for a generation due to Brexit.

“Having spoken with farmers and crofters, I am sure that this milestone will be welcomed by those across the rural economy as my focus now moves onto ensuring that the remaining payments under CAP are made as swiftly as possible.”

At last week’s Royal Highland Show, Mr Ewing reflected on the progress which has been made with ScotGov's troubled rural payment IT system:

“We are experiencing far fewer problems now with the system and making substantial progress. However, I will not be happy until every farmer gets the money that they are entitled to and I won’t be satisfied until it is working properly,” he stressed.

During a press huddle at the show, Mr Ewing highlighted his concerns over the UK Government’s consultation paper on post-Brexit farm support: “The ‘Health and Harmony’ paper more or less states that the Treasury’s plan is to eliminate pillar one payments in short order which is a contradiction to the plan I have outlined in my ‘Stability and Simplicity’ paper,” he explained.

That recently unveiled document proposes a five-year timescale within which to maintain CAP pillar one funding, with the gradual introduction of caps on payments to individual holdings between £25,000 and up to £200,000, freeing up a predicted £140million which ScotGov hope to invest in new environmental schemes, young people, innovation and productivity.

Continuing his criticism of the UK Government’s paper, Mr Ewing said: “Health and Harmony isn’t a plan of action but more like a direction of travel. It doesn’t set out food production as a primary aim of farming. I have made it clear that farmers are custodians of the countryside, but their primary job is to produce food for the nation.

“My plan for a five-year transition period means farmers know they are entitled to receive, subject to the UK Government partnering with us, the same amount of money. This allows time to prepare and plan for change, where a one-year transition proposed by the UK Government is completely inadequate,” concluded Mr Ewing.

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