Scottish Liberal Democrat rural affairs spokesperson Mike Rumbles MSP has today criticised the Scottish Government’s Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing, for openly refusing to carry out an impact assessment into the economic damage faced by rural communities, after three years of delayed Common Agricultural farm payments.
In a letter to North East MSP Mike Rumbles the Cabinet Secretary declared ‘I can see no value in undertaking such a review’.
In 2015, the Scottish Government’s new IT system designed to deliver annual farm payments, worth £178million, crashed. Since then, over £500million of support that would normally enter the rural economy in December of each year has been delayed until the following summer, causing severe disruption and uncertainty across thousands of rural businesses.
The Liberal Democrat MSP wrote to the Cabinet Secretary in April, calling for a full inquiry and impact assessment to be carried out.
Mr Rumbles said:
“It is likely that the findings of a review would be very embarrassing for the Scottish Government.
“Of course the Cabinet Secretary should hang his head in shame for three years of blunder after blunder but the most important thing is to investigate the areas where the greatest damage has been done, so that those communities can be targeted for support.
“It is not only farm businesses that have been affected by the delays. Thousands of people who work for suppliers, retailers and local services indirectly benefit from over £500 million in support payments every year.
“The Cabinet Secretary’s stubborn refusal to assess the situation means that all those voices will continue to go unheard.”