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Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) (Scotland) Act 2020

Pillar 1

Direct payments

12.Direct payments are a form of income support and are aimed at helping to protect a farmer’s or crofter’s income from market volatility. The payments are generally decoupled from production, and are not means tested. They are based on the area farmed and accompanying payment “entitlements”.

13.Direct payments rules for the 2020 claim year were rolled over into domestic law on 31 January 2020 by section 1 of the Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Act 2020 (c.2).

14.Direct payments schemes deliver annual payments to farmers in return for compliance with certain conditions. Some of these schemes are mandatory, while others are run at the discretion of the Member States who have a degree of flexibility on, for example, eligibility conditions, calculation of payments, and scheme conditions.

15.Member States have the option to apply direct payment schemes on a regional basis, which the UK has done in order to reflect devolution. Thus, Scottish direct payment schemes are different from those in the rest of the UK, although they share common features as they are based on the EU framework.

16.The current Scottish direct payment schemes are:

  • The “Basic Payment Scheme” (BPS), which is the main direct payment scheme. It is an area-based scheme with payments calculated according to the area of land claimed upon, and acts as a safety net for farmers and crofters by providing a basic level of income support.

  • The “Greening” payment, which provides a top-up payment in return for carrying out agricultural practices beneficial for the climate and the environment.

  • The Young Farmer Scheme, which provides a top-up payment to young farmers under 40 years of age.

  • Voluntary Coupled Support (VCS), which includes the “Scottish Suckler Beef Support Scheme” (SSBSS) and the “Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme” SUSSS). These schemes provide a payment linked to farm production to maintain livestock numbers.

17.In order to be eligible to receive a direct payment, farmers, crofters and land managers must submit an application form every year and meet the BPS eligibility criteria and, where relevant, the additional conditions for the greening payment, the Young Farmer Scheme and the VCS schemes.

18.Eligible farmers, crofters and land managers must comply with greening practices and rules concerning food safety, animal health, plant health, the environment, the protection of water resources, animal welfare and the condition in which farmland is maintained. This is referred to as “cross compliance”. Failure to meet cross compliance requirements could result in a reduction of payments or, in extreme cases, no payments.

19.Payments are calculated in accordance with a range of additional factors including the payment region, greening payment rates, young farmer payment and the VCS schemes. There are three payment regions in Scotland:

  • Payment Region 1, which includes better quality agricultural land that has been used for arable cropping, temporary grass and permanent grass,

  • Payment Region 2, which includes higher quality rough grazing in a Less Favoured Area (“LFA”), and

  • Payment Region 3, which includes lower quality rough grazing in an LFA.

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Explanatory Notes

Text created by the Scottish Government to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes were introduced in 1999 and accompany all Acts of the Scottish Parliament except those which result from Budget Bills.


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