MEP pledges evidence to Holyrood as farmers left in dark over Scottish Government payments
Ian Duncan, the Conservative MEP for Scotland, has offered to give evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Rural Affairs Committee over concerns raised by farmers that the Scottish Government will fail to pay EU farming funds in December. Last week, NFU Scotland wrote to the Convener of the Rural Affairs Committee, Rob Gibson, asking for an emergency session of the Committee to be held, so that a timeline for payments can be set. NFU Scotland is on record as stating that they do not believe the Scottish Government will make any payments in December, and have called upon Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead to make a public statement setting out when farmers will receive their payments and what the value of those payments will be.
So far, the Scottish Government has committed only to "start making payments in December", whereas England will have made the majority of payments by Hogmanay.
Dr Duncan has written to Rob Gibson offering to give evidence to the Committee on the EU implications of the Scottish Government's failure to deliver Common Agricultural Policy payments on time.
In 2013, the EU fined the Scottish Government tens of millions of euros over flaws with on-the-spot checks in relation to CAP expenditure.
The Scottish Government purchased a new computer system to process payments at a cost of £150m.
The Auditor General for Scotland told the Scottish Parliament that the system is already twice over budget.
Commenting, Dr Duncan said:
"There is mounting concern that the Scottish Government will fail to make any payments in December, and I am fully behind NFU Scotland's call for the Cabinet Secretary to make a public statement setting out when farmers will receive funds and how much they will get. I understand Mr Lochead is giving evidence to the Committee a week on Monday, so why not make the statement then?
"I am aware of problems with the Scottish Government's new computer system for payments and have been in touch with the European Commission, who confirmed they gave all member states full flexibility in which system they could use.
"Farmers are feeling the effects of terrible weather conditions and a crash in the price of milk. They need certainty. We must remember that farms are small businesses like any other and are dependent on cash flow. They don't know when they will get their payments, nor how much those payments will be. Dairy farmers in particular will likely face a 30 percent drop in payments, as the Scottish Government implements the move to a subsidy allocation based upon a per hectare allocation, as opposed to volume.
"I would be glad to give evidence to the Committee, in person or in writing. However, Mr Lochhead can very simply set out a payments schedule today, and give farmers what they are due."
Notes to editors
The Scottish Government’s Computer Payments System has increased in cost by 111% according to Audit Scotland – http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_PublicAuditCommittee/2015_04_21_AGS-PAC_CAP_update%281%29.pdf
The EU fined Scotland E40 million in 2013 - http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-13-773_en.htm
NFU Scotland has called for a public statement on the payments schedule - http://www.nfus.org.uk/news/2015/october/union-writes-scottish-parliament-committee-support-payments
The Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee will take evidence from Mr Lochead in Dumfries, in Monday 2nd November - http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_RuralAffairsClimateChangeandEnvironmentCommittee/General%20Documents/Rural_Affairs_Committee_Land_Reform_A4_poster_v4.pdf
Scottish Government figures on how the new CAP package will affect farm payments http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0045/00453271.pdf
Contact Andrew Johnston
Head of Office, Ian Duncan MEP