The National Farmers’ Union of Scotland (NFUS) has welcomed the news that farmers will begin to receive Scottish Suckler Beef Support Scheme (SSBSS) payments this week.

Farmers will start to receive the payments on Thursday, March 28.

NFUS vice president Andrew Connon said: “NFU Scotland welcomes the timely and prompt payments of the SSBSS this year.”

The SSBSS, worth £40 million, aims to underpin Scotland’s iconic beef sector and support farmers and crofters breeding beef calves from suckler cows.

This is to ensure that herds remain at a level that sustains Scotland’s commercial beef industry.

From the £40 million funding pot, £34 million is for eligible mainland calves and £6 million for Island calf claims.


NFUS has welcomed the commitment from the Scottish government that, with new conditionality around calving intervals, the SSBSS will remain part of future support arrangements for Scottish beef farmers. 

The union has called on the Scottish government to share details on new scheme rules with the industry at the earliest opportunity.

For the 2023 scheme year, NFUS said there was a worrying decrease in the total number of mainland and island businesses making a claim, down from 6499 to 6423, and a 4% decrease in the total number of beef calves claimed, which was down from 379,740 to 366,371. 

With fewer animals claimed, that means a small increase in the payments per head, with mainland beef calves receiving £105.24 and Island calves receiving £151.24 per head.

“It is concerning to see a 4% fall in animals claimed, which signifies that our iconic beef sector still faces ongoing uncertainty and vulnerability despite the very robust prices for store and prime cattle being seen just now,” Connon said.

“It is in the interests of our food and drink sector and our rural economy that farmers and crofters see a future in beef.

“It is clear that coupled support schemes such as SSBSS, which reward active farming and support our suckler beef herd, remain an anchor for farmers and crofters in these turbulent times.

“That is why we have welcomed the Scottish Government’s confirmation that SSBSS, a targeted support scheme, is to remain a key element of Scotland’s future agricultural support package from 2025 onwards.”

New rules

Connon said the union looks forward to Scottish government brining forward details on the new conditionality rules that will be attached to the scheme at the earliest opportunity as spring calving is already in full swing across Scotland.

“More than 50% (39) of the decline in total number of businesses claiming (76) relates to the islands but the fall in calves claimed from the islands is 1,815 from a total of 13,369 – or about 13.6%,” he said.

“That indicates that it is smaller suckler herds on the islands that are leaving the sector at the fastest rate, which underlines the need for effective, targeted coupled support and ongoing Less Favoured Areas support to underpin the socio-economic significance of suckler herds in more remote and fragile locations.

“It underlines NFU Scotland’s calls for frontloading payments to support smaller producers and the need to ensure the future SSBSS remains accessible and relevant to all beef producers, big and small.”