Now that the new SRDP has been formally submitted to Europe, our Pillar 2 team have a bit of a lull in the Brussels-facing element of their work. The European Commission will study the draft programme and in due course will come back with comments and questions, which we will of course have to deal with before they’ll approve the programme.
But for the time being, the work on Pillar 2 is Scotland-focussed. For example, the team are working on things like detailed eligibility criteria for schemes, and payment rate calculations – which under EU rules have to be independently checked by an outside body.
On Pillar 1, by contrast, both EU-facing and Scotland-facing aspects are busy at the moment. As for Pillar 2, there’s Pillar 1 work taking place on the detailed rules for the direct payment schemes. This has involved meetings with stakeholder representatives, for example on greening and on coupled support. But in addition, there’s an EU element in that we have to notify our main decisions on Pillar 1 to the Commission by 1 August.
The Commission has issued twelve templates for these notifications, each covering a specific area, which the team are working on filling in. Naturally one consequence of this is that we are prioritising work on the issues which are subject to the 1 August deadline over details which aren’t legally required until later.
Of course, all of the above is based on what the regulations require us to do. Meanwhile in the real world we’re very aware that farmers and crofters need to know the rules as soon as possible so that they can plan next year’s operations. The European timetable – including for example detailed rules not being adopted until very late – has been challenging in that respect. But we know it’s important and will get as much detail as we can out as soon as we can.