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SNP saved from EU farm fine due to being part of UK

STV News understands the UK as a whole will meet the farm payment threshold.

Deadline: At least 95% of farmers must be paid their subsidies before Saturday.
Deadline: At least 95% of farmers must be paid their subsidies before Saturday. Andrew Matthews/PA Archive/PA Images

The Scottish Government is set to avoid a possible multi-million pound fine from the European Union over late farm payments due to Scotland being part of the UK, STV News understands.

The devolved administration is on course to miss the Friday's midnight deadline of paying 95.24% of common agricultural policy (CAP) subsidies to farmers.

A total of only 90% of payments are expected to be made in Scotland but the UK as a whole is set to make the threshold.

The department for the environment, food and rural affairs (DEFRA) has paid 99.2% of CAP subsidies in England.

Rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said: "It's important to recognise that through the national loan scheme and payments made to date, the vast majority of farmers and crofters have received their money.

"We recognise that while we are making progress, we still need to do better.

Our priority remains completing payments for farmers and crofters as quickly as possible in the coming weeks and officials are working incredibly hard to do just that - and will continue to do so beyond today to make as many outstanding payments as quickly as possible."

Earlier this week the Scottish Government made a formal request to the European Commission for a four-month extension in case it failed to make the required number of payments.

Last year the Commission extended the deadline as an "exceptional measure" but a number of payments were not paid before the new window closed.

The Scottish Government expects to receive a £5m fine from the EU over last year's late payments.

However, government watchdog Audit Scotland has warned financial "penalties of up to £60 million are possible".

A Conservative spokesman said: "The SNP government's handling of farm payments has been a fiasco from start to finish.

"It now appears the Scottish Government has been saved from paying a massive fine because the performance in other parts of the UK has been far better and has ensured the targets for payments across the UK has been passed.

"It is another embarrassment for the SNP.

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