Fergus Ewing in apology over CAP payments delays
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing says government will "learn lessons" from multiple IT failures leading to delays in EU payments to farmers
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has apologised for delays to administering EU funding to Scottish farmers, saying sorting out the issue is his “top priority”.
The IT system designed to administer Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments to farmers has been beset by significant delays and rising costs, with a recent Audit Scotland report blaming “multiple failures” by government and civil servants.
“On behalf of the Scottish Government, I address three simple words to all farmers and crofters who have suffered as a result: we are sorry. Let me follow that up with four further words: we are fixing it,” Ewing told parliament.
Farmers and crofters are due current payments by 30 June or the Scottish Government could face a fine.
Ewing said his predecessor Richard Lochhead had applied to extend the deadline, but he was determined government would “learn the lessons” from the crisis.
“My immediate priority is to ensure remaining payments are made as quickly as possible, to resolve the difficulties with the system and get the 2016 payments on to a proper footing.
“That is why I am absolutely focused on this issue and doing everything possible to assist farmers and drive forward the rural economy. I have already committed to update parliament quickly and I will do that,” he said.
Scottish Conservative rural affairs spokesman Peter Chapman, a former vice president of the farmer's union in Scotland, said an apology was not enough.
“His apologetic words do nothing to make up for the months of chaos and heartbreak in our rural economy that his department has caused.
“Time and again over the past six months, Government ministers have had to come to the chamber and explain that they need more time to get payments out. That is simply unacceptable, and it has completely eroded farmers’ trust in the Government,” he said.
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