A LOAN scheme will be introduced by the Scottish Government this autumn to support farmers and crofters amid further criticism of its delayed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments.
The scheme will allow 17,000 people to apply for loans worth up to 80 per cent of their entitlement in an effort to avoid cash flow problems experienced last year.
However, the Scottish Government has come under renewed criticism, with Conservative MSP Peter Chapman claiming the loan scheme was a “slap in the face” for farmers who have previously been affected by the delayed payments.
NFU Scotland said some problems still remain after the government’s new £178 million IT system administering CAP payments was plagued by problems last year.
Some farmers and crofters were left without payments for months, with a damning report from Audit Scotland highlighting the government’s problems.
As of last Friday, 17,744 out of 18,479 eligible businesses had received 2015 payments, with the “majority” of remaining cases expected to be complete by the deadline of 15 October.
Speaking to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, rural economy minister Fergus Ewing said the new loan scheme will be available to those eligible for basic payment scheme, greening or young farmer funding.
The SNP’s Highlands and Islands list MSP Maree Todd welcomed the £300 million loan scheme.
“Having learned lessons from the 2015 round of CAP payments, the Scottish Government is determined to provide as much certainty as possible – not just for farmers and crofters, but for the wider economy in rural communities such as Shetland,” Todd said.
“Over 17,000 businesses across Scotland, including many in Shetland, will be entitled to qualify for this loan initially, with work continuing to make offers and payments to the remaining eligible businesses by the end of the year.
“I would therefore encourage everyone eligible to apply for this funding, which will give our farmers and crofters the security and certainty they need to enable them to plan for the year ahead while driving forward the rural economy.”
NFU Scotland president Allan Bowie welcomed the news and said it will provide some reassurance for the farming community.
The deadline for loan applications is 12 October, with payments due in November.
“Cabinet secretary Fergus Ewing was candid about the challenges he, and his staff, continue to face in completing the 2015 payment run but he has also shown a clear commitment to the wider rural economy with his announcement today,” Bowie said.
“Knowing that up to 80 per cent of your support package will be delivered in early November gives clarity and certainty to farm businesses. This announcement will have a positive impact on the whole rural economy.”