While the catalogue of farm support payment blunders continued to grow this week, Scotland’s top civil servant could give no categorical assurance to an inquiry that there would be no further errors.
Addressing the Scottish Parliament’s public audit committee’s meeting, which looked at the ongoing problems in the sector, permanent secretary Leslie Evans apologised for the continuing errors and said that there were some reasons to have greater confidence in the system.
We cannot be confident of total successLeslie Evans
However, citing the extent and complexity of the new support arrangements, she told the committee: “We cannot be confident of total success … and we cannot commit to there being no further errors.”
Following the news of a series of mistakes at the beginning of the week – which included duplicate payments of 2016 support loans and an arithmetical error that had seen 166 producers in the second payment run receive too much – it was also revealed that a data protection breach had taken place on Wednesday.
Conservative committee member Ross Thomson said the session had provided little in the way of reassurance that the issues which had led to the mistakes were under control.
He said: “No-one seems to have been subject to any disciplinary action to date as a result of these errors and I have to say I find that extraordinary.”
Rural affairs committee member, Mike Rumbles, who sat in on the meeting, said a lack of confidence in the entire system had resulted in 5,000 farmers – almost one-third of farm business – rejecting the loan scheme.
He added that distrust had been exacerbated by the lack of any information on how payments had been calculated.