Scottish Government has approached EU over extending farm payments deadline
The Scottish Government will face fines if it fails to make payments by the 30 June deadline
Farming - Image credit: PA Images
The Scottish Government has approached the EU about extending the deadline for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments to Scottish farmers, the European Commission has confirmed.
This follows questioning by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson at First Minister’s Questions yesterday, where the First Minister would not confirm whether an extension had been requested.
Davidson asked: “Can the First Minister confirm whether the Scottish Government has in recent weeks made contact with the European Commission over delays to this year’s farm payments?”
Nicola Sturgeon answered that there are “regular discussions with the European Commission about matters relating to the common agricultural policy and agricultural policy in general”.
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After further questioning, the First Minister continued: “We will endeavour to make payments on time, and we will continue to discuss with the European Commission any contingency arrangements that we consider are required.”
However, a European Commission spokesperson told STV News: “The European Commission has now received a request from the Scottish government to extend the payment deadline from 30 June to 15 October for direct payments.
“This request will be considered within the terms of the legislation.
“In the meantime, the Commission encourages the Scottish authorities to accelerate the execution of payments before the 30 June deadline.”
This will be the second year in a row that the Scottish Government has had to delay making some of the payments.
Around 6,000 applications for payments to farmers are still to be processed ahead of the 30 June deadline, about a third of the total for the year.
And even though it has requested an extension to the deadline of 30 June, the Scottish Government could face multi-million pound fines for failing to make the CAP payments on time.
Last week an update by Audit Scotland on the IT programme for managing the agricultural payments estimated that the Scottish Government could face fines of up to £60m for late payments, although the First Minister called this figure “speculative” and pointed out that fines last year had been lower than Audit Scotland calculations.
Responding to the news that the Scottish Government has asked the EU for an extension to the deadline, Scottish Liberal Democrat rural affairs spokesperson Mike Rumbles said: "This is an outrageous revelation.
“Despite being directly asked at FMQs today the First Minister made no mention of the fact an extension had been applied for two days ago.
"In a week where the Scottish Government has been heavily criticised over its lack of transparency this latest revelation is appalling"
"Either the First Minister purposely decided to not to tell the Scottish Parliament or she had no clue what her ministers are up to.
“Either way questions need to be answered."
Davidson said: “It’s a disgrace that so many farmers are still waiting for payments, and it looks like – for the second year running – the SNP is going to have to go cap-in-hand to Europe and ask for special treatment.
“This all has a massive knock-on impact for the wider rural economy.
“It’s no wonder rural communities have completely lost trust in the SNP.”
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