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It’s different in Scotland – part 4: agricultural support system

Working with agricultural clients on both sides of the Scottish Border brings with it knowledge of the agricultural support systems available to English and Scottish farmers.

Under the current CAP framework, the UK administrations have increasingly different approaches in how they deliver agricultural and rural support. For example, payment rates per hectare under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) vary significantly and the Scottish government still provides some coupled support payments.
There are also differences in how schemes are administered. For example, under European Commission rules, both countries must make the BPS payment between 1 December of the scheme year and 30 June the following year. However, in Scotland there is currently a National Basic Payment Support Scheme which has been in place since the 2015 scheme year. In 2019, this scheme allowed businesses to receive a loan of 95% of their anticipated BPS and Greening payment entitlement in October 2019 – up to the scheme limit of €150,000. In contrast, English claimants must wait (some longer than others!) for their payment which will arrive at some point during the seven month payment window.

When you look into the reasons for the differences, you begin to understand some of the challenges facing Scottish agriculture when compared to the rest of the UK. Figures provided by the SRUC in 2019 indicate that only 9% of Scottish farmland can be used for cropping, 21% for grassland and 59% for rough grazing. The remaining 11% is used for ‘other’ of which forestry will be a significant proportion.  In contrast, 44% of English land can be used for cropping, 41% for grassland, 9% for rough grazing and 6% for other. Interestingly, rough grazing accounts for 24% of Welsh farmland and 16% of Northern Irish farmland. The significant area of rough grazing in Scotland has contributed to the differences between the Scottish and English agricultural support schemes over the years.