More than 1,000 farmers and crofters are expected to receive their long awaited sheep coupled support payments within the next few days.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said up to £5.6million in payments was on its way to around 1,100 producers, with the majority expected to be paid by the end of this week.
The scheme, which is officially known as the Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme (SUSSS), was expected to provide around 100 euros per eligible ewe hogg.
However the actual rate is lower at 78.12 euros (£65.44) due to more sheep being entered into the scheme than originally thought – around 101,000 sheep have been put forward for support.
Mr Ewing said: “It appears that the new sheep scheme has led to eligible farmers and crofters increasing their number of animals. Whilst this may be a welcome indication of confidence in the sector, it does have a bearing on the final payment rates, as EU regulations specify that coupled support schemes must only be used to halt declines in livestock numbers, rather than aim to increase them.”
He added that government was still working hard to complete all remaining Basic Payment Scheme and greening payments “as quickly as possible” with more than £311million paid to 17,800 farms so far.
“We continue to prioritise completing the remaining 2015 payments as quickly as possible and making improvements for 2016. As I have previously stated, I will update parliament in September on how this work is progressing,” added Mr Ewing.
NFU Scotland described the reduced payment rate as “disappointing” and reiterated its previous calls for the scheme to be changed to better target active farmers.
The union has called for the application period for the scheme to be widened, for a new retention period to be crated and for the total number of ewe hoggs a producer can claim on to be linked to a percentage of their breeding flock.