CAP payment deadline extended by European Commission
European Commission extended deadline for the Scottish Government to make CAP payments
The European Commission has extended the deadline for the Scottish Government to make CAP payments, after IT glitches led to farmers missing out on support.
The deadline has been extended from 30 June to 15 October. Missing the deadline would have seen the Scottish Government face up to £125m in fines.
European commissioner for agriculture and rural development Phil Hogan described the decision as “an exceptional measure, which reflects the difficulties that some paying agencies have experienced with the first year of payments under the new CAP”.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said he welcomed the extension, but stressed that making payments in full to as many Scottish farmers before the original deadline “remains my absolute priority”.
But Scottish Tory rural affairs spokesperson Peter Chapman said the decision meant, “the Scottish Government has been let off the hook”, while Green MSP Mark Ruskell described it as “a get out of jail free card”.
Hogan said the extension “represents an unprecedented level of flexibility on the part of the European Commission and, based on the current levels of payments, could yield a multi-million Euro saving for those Member States/regions, and potentially their farmers, which will not have made their payments by 30 June.
“Based on the engagement that I have had with a number of Member States/regions, I am satisfied that this measure, which goes as far as the Commission can go, fully meets their needs in terms providing them with maximum flexibility and ensuring full reimbursement of the value of the payments”.
The Scottish Government said all farmers should have received 80 per cent of their estimated entitlement from its loan scheme by the end of April.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “This flexibility is welcome, but it will not detract from my determination to make full payments to as many Scottish farmers as possible by 30 June. This remains my absolute priority.
“Today’s announcement by the EU Commission reflects the challenges being faced by countries across Europe in implementing this CAP reform and making payments, and reduces the potential for financial penalties being imposed on administrations.”
Opposition parties called on the Scottish Government to make payments as soon as possible.
Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles said: “SNP incompetence has blown a hole in the ability of farmers to plan their finances effectively. We need to ensure that funds get out of the door and into bank accounts before the end of June.”
Chapman said: “The Scottish Government has been let off the hook by this decision, which thankfully will mean that taxpayers will not have to foot the bill for the failure to process these vital payments on time.
"However, this should by no means absolve the SNP, or indeed the former Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead, from blame for this debacle.
"Furthermore, this cannot be used as an excuse for any further delays in the distribution of CAP payments to farmers and crofters.”
“Last month Mr Ruskell highlighted a report by Audit Scotland which concluded that the way that problems with the farm payments IT system were handled by the Scottish Government were "a serious concern".
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