A call for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to take over from her rural affairs minister, Richard Lochhead, and sort out the problems surrounding delayed farm support payments was made yesterday.
Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, made the request in the Scottish Parliament after stating that Lochhead was “the problem and not the solution” as to why up to £300 million of European support money was not now in the rural economy.
The “rural economy had been starved” she claimed, adding this was down to the failings of the computer which has cost almost £180m or, as Davidson put it, almost half the cost of building the Scottish Parliament.
Responding to Davidson’s call, the First Minister said the government was doing everything possible to get the cash out to farmers and crofters and she confirmed the issue was now a regular item on the weekly Cabinet meeting.
Davidson had quoted Jim Walker, a former NFU Scotland president, in pointing out the negative effect the malfunctioning computer had had on business cash flows.
Yesterday he described the failings of the computer as “the biggest scandal and misuse of public funds”. He predicted the problems in getting the basic payment scheme cash out the government door would be followed by delays in other support schemes causing more pain and misery amongst farmers and embarrassment to government.
Walker also called on the current officebearers of the Union to raise their game in dealing with the politicians responsible for the debacle.