Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP today warned Scottish Government Ministers that with the future of farm businesses in doubt, they cannot hide behind the EU Commission as an excuse to delay support payments.
Mr Rennie was speaking after meeting Perthshire farmer Ian Sands and NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie to discuss the difficulties that delays to EU farm payments are causing for businesses.
Hundreds of millions of pounds are still missing from the Scottish rural economy as a result of delays to EU Common Agricultural Policy support payments. This is despite the Scottish Government spending £178 million on a new IT system to manage funds.
Mr Rennie said: “We are now at the stage where the incompetence of the Scottish Government has put the long-term future of many farm businesses in doubt. Farmers who have worked their land for generations have been left none the wiser over when their money will arrive.
“Decisions on buying supplies and equipment have been delayed which is having a knock on effect on businesses in the supply chain. The longer the wait goes on, the more serious these problems are getting.
"It is time that SNP Ministers stood up for farmers rather than expecting them to pay for the government’s mistakes. We can investigate how on earth we got here later. The priority now must be for farmers and communities to receive the cash they are due before the situation gets much worse.
“The SNP cannot hide behind the EU Commission as a reason not to pay farmers immediately. This is a Scottish Government problem and SNP Ministers have the power to fix it. We need to get this money out the door and into the bank accounts of farmers who up to this point have been left in the dark.”