MSPs reject call for inquiry into Scottish Government 'IT failures' after farmers hit by CAP funding delays
MSPs have refused to back calls for a “full independent inquiry into the Scottish Government’s IT failures” after farmers were hit by delays to European Union support payments.
The Scottish Conservatives’ motion stating that farmers have “lost trust” in government’s ability to deliver funding before the end of this month failed to pass at Holyrood after SNP MSPs and Independent MSP Jean Urquhart voted against it.
Government has developed a new IT system to administer payments to farmers and crofters following reform to the Common Agricultural Policy last year.
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However, only around 10,500 eligible claims had been paid out as of yesterday, equivalent to just 59 per cent of farmers and crofters, with farmers and crofters going on to rally at the Scottish Parliament today.
Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott claimed the “failure of the Government’s £200 million IT system is nothing short of a national disgrace” during a Holyrood debate on the issue.
“Farmers and crofters will find it extraordinary that the Government still believes that that IT system can work,” he said. “Why does the Government not just come clean with all of us - Parliament and agriculture - and admit that the computer system does not work and will never work as intended? The Government should ditch it now.”
Labour MSP Margaret McDougall added: “The current situation with CAP payments combined with the spiralling costs of the IT system is nothing short of scandalous. The new IT system was meant to make the process easier and more efficient. Instead, there have been significant delays and a massive increase in cost.”
It was announced earlier this week that the Scottish Government will make up to £200m available in cash advances to those still waiting for their CAP claims to be processed come the end of this month.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “The IT system is working, but not anywhere nearly as quickly as we all want, and I fully accept that.
“Under the EU rules, we have to complete detailed checks on every claim before we can authorise payment, and it is only after payments are made that the EU reimburses us. The IT system has to validate each and every claim against 400,000 fields and more than 500 EU rules.
“I ask members to just think of that for a second: every claim involves 400,000 fields and more than 500 EU rules. Officials are constantly having to improve the IT system - which we are using for the first time and which Europe said that we had to build and implement - to speed up the process and unblock cases.
“We have drafted extra staff into our offices and our IT teams have been working day and night.”