The Scottish Government was left red-faced this week after admitting a “technical error” resulted in it overpaying new entrants nearly £1million.
Farmers who had been eagerly awaiting the second round of payments under the £2million New Entrants Grant Scheme were paid twice and have now been asked to repay money to the government.
The scheme, which supports 640 farmers, was set up last year to provide payments to new entrants and deer farmers who currently receive no Single Farm Payment support.
Rather than paying out the planned £925,000 to the farmers – an average of £1,455 to each new entrant – the government dished out £1.85million by making payments twice one day after another.
The government blamed a “technical error” for the blunder and pledged to investigate why it had happened.
A spokeswoman said: “This issue was quickly identified and we are writing to all those affected to explain what has happened and request the money is repaid as soon as possible.
“We appreciate the cooperation of our customers on this as we work to resolve the situation.
“A review is under way to find out what went wrong so that similar problems can be avoided in future.”
New entrant John Fyall – a sheep farmer and agricultural consultant of Sittyton, Newmachar – said having to pay money to the government would be difficult for new entrants who are already struggling financially at this time of the year.
“We were expecting to get subsidy in 2014, not having to pay cheques to the Scottish Government,” he said.
“They can wait in line with all the suppliers that have to be paid.”
In 2007, First Minister Alex Salmond launched a new entrants scheme as part of the SNP’s election manifesto.
At the time, the party said the scheme would pay out £10million annually to the sector from 2013 onwards.