SNP “incompetence” letting down Scotland’s farmers
The Scottish Government is showing "increasing incompetence" over their botched handling of EU payments to farmers, the Scottish Conservatives said today.
The European Commission gave all governments the flexibility to start payments from 16 October, but Scottish farmers have still not been told when they can expect the money or how much they will receive.
By contrast, farmers in other EU nations such as France and Ireland are expected to receive their own funds early.
The Scottish Government's Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has so far refused to take advantage of the EU scheme, merely promising to “begin to make payments by the end of the year.”
It has prompted a furious reaction from Scotland's farmers, with today's Scottish Farmer calling on Mr Lochhead to "tell us the truth".
The delay comes after widely reported problems with the Scottish Government’s new computer system for processing payments – a system which has already cost in excess of £150 million.
Now, the Scottish Conservatives are demanding that a timetable is announced for payments and an full explanation is given for the delays.
Scottish Conservative rural spokesman Alex Fergusson said:
“The situation facing our farmers over payments due to them is unacceptable and shows increasing incompetence at the highest level.
“For months now we’ve heard rumours that there is no actual timetable in place for these payments and this is causing a great deal of distress on the farming community.
“It’s simply not enough to say that payments will begin to be made by the end of this year. We need a proper timetable for when payments will be made and a valid explanation on why it has not been sorted out yet.
“Many livelihoods depend on these payments and it’s time the SNP government got their act together and got on with the job in hand.”
Conservative MEP for Scotland Ian Duncan added:
“I have written to the European Commission on this matter, and am expecting an answer from Farming Commissioner Hogan shortly. I understand that France and Ireland are due to start making payments to farmers this October, why can't the Scottish Government?
“For months farmers have been telling me that Richard Lochhead's new computer payment system simply does not work, and I suspect that is the real reason why they don't want to take up the flexibility offered by the EU.
“Farmers struggling with falling dairy prices and the worst weather in memory not only don't know when they will get their money but how much. From Fishermen to Farmers, it is becoming increasingly clear that the SNP have abandoned Rural Scotland.”
Notes to editors
Front Page of the Scottish Farmer - https://www.facebook.com/scottishfarmer
Early Payment Flexibility confirmed by European Commission - https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/business/farming/706178/undefined-headline-1298/
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
Contact: Laura Varney - Scottish Conservative's Press Office