Delays in making payments to Scotland’s farmers under a new EU subsidy system mean many are only now beginning to realise the financial implications of the scheme for their businesses.
NFU Scotland has already highlighted the damage being caused by delays in issuing payments under the new Basic Payment Scheme, part of the EU’s reformed Common Agricultural Policy.
And the new chairman of the farming union’s Isle of Bute branch says those hold-ups mean many farmers are just beginning to come to terms with what the BPS system will mean for them.
Hugh McCulloch, a beef and sheep farmer at Kilmichael in the north-west of the island, said: “We are in the same position as all the rest of the farmers, but the realisation of how much payments are dropping is only now becoming clear.
“I’m aware of about three or four [Bute farmers] who have been paid, but no more.”
The BPS system calculates subsidies to farmers based on the area and quality of the land they farm, instead of the quantity of stock they own or crops they produce, as was the case under the previous Single Farm Payments scheme.
The Scottish Government announced in November that BPS payments would be made in two instalments, of 70 per cent and 30 per cent - but warned that some farmers would not receive that first 70 per cent until the end of March.
And Richard Lochhead MSP, the cabinet secretary for rural affairs, food and the environment, told the Scottish Parliament last month that only 28 per cent of applicants in the Highlands and Islands - and less than 30 per cent of applicants nationally - had received any BPS payments at all.
“Farmers are great guys for crying wolf,” Mr McCulloch continued, “but I can assure you the situation we’re faced with now is horrendous.”
Industry expert Andrew Leggate, a senior consultant with Scotland’s Rural College, forecast last year that farms on Bute would lose out on a total of around £500,000 under the new BPS system.