Scottish farmers yesterday said they are fed up with Scottish Government apologies for late CAP payments as they demanded action to ensure they receive their money on time.
Speaking after Nicola Sturgeon apologised for the latest payment delays caused by the Scottish Government’s troubled IT system, NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said farmers did not want “to hear sorry again”.
Mr McCornick also expressed dismay that the Scottish Government had failed to let farmers know about the latest delays which only came to light after Ms Sturgeon was challenged on the issue at Holyrood.
Ms Sturgeon was accused of operating a “culture of secrecy” after she failed to give a direct answer when Tory leader Ruth Davidson asked her if the Scottish Government had sought an extension to the payment processing deadline from the European Commission.
The fact that the Scottish Government had applied to extend the deadline from June 30 to October 15 was revealed by European Commission sources after Ms Sturgeon had been tackled on the issue.
Yesterday the Scottish Conservatives accused Ms Sturgeon of treating the parliament with contempt and said Rural Affairs Minister Fergus Ewing should consider his position.
Failure to meet the deadline could lead to the Scottish Government being fined tens of millions of pounds by Europe. It is understood that the Scottish Government has processed 73 per cent of payments, but to meet the deadline needs to get to 95 per cent over the next week.
On a visit to the Royal Highland Show, the First Minister apologised for the delays, saying: “We have already apologised and we do so again today to farmers for the failures that have been experienced in the system and I guarantee that we will continue to give this matter our full focus and attention to ensure that farmers get the service that they deserve.”
Mr McCornick said: “We’ve asked for Scottish Government to have a clear and open dialogue with the industry on payments. Farmers and crofters should have been the first to know that once again there is to be a delay in payments. This does nothing to restore trust or build confidence.
“We have had many apologies about the system. We don’t want to hear sorry again. We want action that will ensure payments arrive in a timely manner. Failure to deliver farm support puts the whole of Scotland’s rural economy in jeopardy.”