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First instalments to arrive in bank accounts on Hogmanay.
The first direct farm payments are due to arrive in bank accounts within days, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has confirmed.
Around 3,500 farmers and crofters have had payments authorised – meaning they will receive a first instalment of 75 per cent of Basic Payments and 90 per cent of Greening from Hogmanay onwards.
Mr Lochhead said:
"I can confirm that the first direct farm payments are just days away, with first instalments due to arrive in about 3,500 bank accounts from Thursday.
"Our aim was to pay a first instalment of at least 70 per cent and even higher if possible – whilst at the same time doing all we can to avoid Scottish farmers facing incorrect payments, or the loss of funding through EU disallowance that their counterparts elsewhere faced in the past.
"My officials have informed me that this first batch of payments includes the most straightforward claims to process, which means we have been able to approve a first instalment of 75 per cent of Basic Payments and 90 per cent of Greening. There will be further payments from January to March and we will continue to work flat out to maximise the number of payments and level of payments.
"The hard work and effort that has gone on behind the scenes to get us to this point cannot be overstated. Implementing this very difficult and complex Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform has been a major undertaking, involving the calculation of four million payment entitlements - covering around 400,000 fields - and processing around 21,000 Single Application Form (SAF) applications as well as inspecting 1,300 farms. We have also had to deal with four separate CAP audits from EU institutions since September.
"I would like to again thank farmers for their patience, and to urge any individuals who are experiencing difficulties to contact their local area office or the new RPID customer helpline that launched at the start of this month."
Despite the enormous administrative challenge involved in implementing very difficult and complex Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms, the EU requires that claimants are provided with an illustration of the estimated number and value of entitlements by the end of 2015. Scottish farmers and crofters will shortly begin to receive letters with this information, and those whose entitlement values have been calculated will also be able to view the information via their Rural Payments and Services account.
Mr Lochhead added:
"Once we have finished processing all Scottish payments in March, we will be able to provide farmers with firm and final figures for their entitlements and expected level of payment each year up to 2019.
"But despite the incredible complexity in the new CAP and extremely tight timescales for implementation, Europe requires that we give farmers illustrative information at this point in time. That is now happening."
The EU payment window runs from 1 December to June. Following EU reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Scottish Government has been required to implement a complex new regime at the same time as moving to a system where payments are based on area, rather than historic production.
The Cabinet Secretary announced the planned timetable for 2015 direct farm payments on 17 November: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Farm-payments-timetable-1f64.aspx
The Entitlements and Payments Information Helpline can be contacted on 0300 300 2222. Staff will answer any questions about the letters we will be issuing over the next few months, general queries about new entitlements, and questions about payments for the 2015 scheme year (for the Basic Payment Scheme). Lines are open from 8.30am to 5pm on Monday to Thursday and from 8.30am to 4.30pm on a Friday, with the exception of January 1 and 4, 2016.