NFUS vows to keep up pressure on support payments

Allan Bowie said lessons need to be learned from the IT debacle. Picture: Contributed
Allan Bowie said lessons need to be learned from the IT debacle. Picture: Contributed
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While the days of farmers taking their chequebooks along to the Highland Show to buy new machinery and other kit are long since gone, the event can still occasionally spark the idea for a new purchase.

With the industry finances standing at a low ebb, the news that the Scottish Government was set to start processing the second instalment of farmers’ support claims – with the earliest to be delivered into bank accounts over the next few weeks – might help fill what NFU Scotland yesterday termed the “sizeable hole” which has been hindering Scotland’s rural economy.

READ MORE: Fergus Ewing ‘sorry’ for farm payments chaos

Union president Allan Bowie made it plain that while the move to pay out another £50 million over the coming weeks was good news, the IT debacle which led to costly and protracted delays in the delivery of CAP support had had a huge impact on the entire rural economy.

“Instead of arriving as usual in December, we are now in mid-June and businesses are only starting to receive their final payment instalments,” said Bowie.

“These payments will be welcomed by all and will be a great relief to many. It means we are getting closer to the end but NFUS will keep the pressure on the Scottish Government and their officials until all of Scotland’s farmers and crofters are paid what they are due.

He added that while most could now expect their final payments, the union knew that some more complex cases had yet to receive a penny.

“The cabinet secretary Fergus Ewing is committed to fixing the deeply flawed system and, once the job is done and final payments have been made, there needs to be a wholesale review of the programme’s failings,” said Bowie.

“Lessons need to be learned, changes need to be made and people need to be held to account.”

Reminding producers that applications for the 2016 support scheme close today, he said no room should be left for similar problems haunting the scheme again – and said that the Scottish Government should draw up a new contract with farmers for delivery of support payments.

Announcing the imminent payments, Ewing said he was “absolutely determined” to make them to as many Scottish farmers as possible by 30 June.

He said: “This is my utmost priority and thanks to the relentless efforts of staff, this process is nearing the very final stages of completion which will enable us to begin paying second instalments in the near future, injecting at least another £50m into Scotland’s rural economy.”

• Figures for last week reveal 15,754 producers had received their first instalment in recent months, leaving around 2,400 – the majority of whom had taken advantage of the national loan – yet to receive their first actual payments.