CAP payments: Richard Lochhead announces new funding to help farmers affected by delay
Ministers face fierce criticism from farmers over delays to CAP payments, caused by IT problems
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has made £20m available to help farmers access loans while they wait for delayed Common Agricultural Policy payments to be administered by the Scottish Government.
Ministers have faced fierce criticism from farmers over delays to CAP payments, with well over half of recipients still awaiting payments despite farmers having being promised they would receive funds by the end of January.
Conservative leader Ruth Davidson yesterday claimed the SNP’s handling of the issue meant “the First Minister has lost the trust of rural Scotland”.
Speaking at the National Farmers Union of Scotland annual conference, Lochhead said: “I fully recognise the cash flow issues facing Scottish agriculture as a result of difficult market and weather conditions coinciding with the biggest CAP reform ever.
“The Scottish Government continues to do everything in our power to get first instalments out to as many people as we can by the end of March and the balance of payments as soon as possible after that.
“We are making progress. However the extreme complexity of the policy we agreed with industry in Scotland – which is being delivered by a brand new IT system that we are constantly working to improve - means it is taking longer than expected to process applications – and I am aware that as a result some farmers and crofters are facing hardship.”
The Government said it has already deployed additional staff to area offices and moved to processing applications seven days a week to help address the delay.
Conservative MEP Ian Duncan said: “Mr Lochhead has been repeatedly warned for over a year that his plan for delivering basic farm payments was bound to fail. His excuse that it is 'complicated' does not wash with farmers.
“To take until the second week of February to apologise for the debacle, and then offer a Government-backed loan, is simply not good enough. Farmers want the money which is sitting in the Scottish Government bank account, not loans.”
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