The Scottish Government needs to pay up

Back our farmers

Today at The Scottish Parliament Willie Rennie addressed farmers protesting the SNP's failure to pay Scottish farmers the EU support they're owed.It's vital that farmers get this crucial funding as soon as possible.If you agree, please sign our petition today:

Posted by Willie Rennie on Thursday, 10 March 2016

Scotland’s food and drink sector is one of our real success stories as a country. Scotch beef, whisky and a whole range of other products end up on dinner plates around the world. Our farmers are crucial to this success but they are being let down by the Scottish Government.

In recent months concern in farming communities has been growing as EU payments for farmers have been delayed and delayed again. The blame for these delays does not rest in Brussels, but with the Scottish Government who are responsible for managing this financial support.

Scotland’s food and drink sector is a real success story

Later this week, farmers are due to come to the Scottish Parliament to protest at the repeated delays. Ahead of their trip to Edinburgh, this week I met with a Perthshire farmer who is yet to receive his payment, Allan Bowie, the President of NFU Scotland and others from the local farming community.

The picture they drew of the problems that this delay is creating was stark.

Payments were originally due in December, but at the last count, around half of farmers are still yet to receive the funds they need. Only a quarter of all the funds due have been paid out.

half of farmers are still yet to receive the funds they need

This incompetence 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 too. The longer the wait goes on, the more serious these problems are getting. It is not just farmers who are losing out. It is the businesses who supply feed and other essentials that help keep farms going.

it is not just farmers who are losing out

Part of the problem here is that the way that farm support payments are calculated has changed. But SNP Ministers have known that this has been coming for years. The brand new computer system they commissioned to manage the payments has already cost is £178m and there is no sign of it working in the near future.

Ministers have failed to negotiate effectively with Europe over the need to accelerate the payments. They have pretended for far too long that everything was OK. But it is now farmers who are paying the pricing for the government's failure to act.

the Scottish Government can't make farmers pay for their mistakes

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.

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