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Payment Uncertainty Sees Union Call for LFASS Loan

Replacement of flawed IT system must be considered

Farmer and crofter frustration with the Scottish Government’s flawed IT system to deliver CAP support has led to calls for the system to be shut down and replaced.

With stuttering delivery of some support payments and no clear delivery timetable for others, the Union has called on Scottish Government to take immediate steps to overcome the failures of the £180 million IT system and to help the rural economy.

The Scottish Government has previously bypassed the IT system to inject support into farming through loan schemes.  A year ago, Scottish Government used a loan scheme to deliver £55 million (approx. 90 percent) of Less Favoured Areas support to 11,000 farmers and crofters, injecting funds into some of the country’s most remote and vulnerable rural communities. In the absence of any clear timetable, the Union believes Scottish Government must now do the same for LFASS 2016.  

In the ongoing absence of a functioning IT system, the Union believes the loan scheme approach is necessary.  In November 2016, Scottish Government provided a further hugely valuable stimulus to the rural economy when it delivered on a National loan scheme that provided most Scottish farmers and crofters with funding equivalent to 80 percent of their basic support package.

Sums equivalent to a further 10 percent of Basic Support Payments and Greening have been an unannounced but welcome addition to some farmers’ bank accounts this week.  That points to ongoing problems with the delivery system and farmers are now likely to receive basic support in three instalments, when they received it in two stages last year.  To build confidence in the system, the Union wants the Scottish Government to give firm dates on when all other outstanding payments will be made, to enable farmers and crofters to plan.

And it is also looking to the Scottish Government to spell out to the Scottish Parliament, the industry and taxpayers what remains wrong with the IT system and how they will put it right.  And if it can’t, then the Union believes it has no choice but to turn it off and start again.

NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said: “For three years, we have been relying on a promise that the flawed IT system, installed at a cost to Scottish taxpayers of £180 million, will start to work.  This has not happened and the system is proving to be unfixable.  

“Last year, the Basic Payment and Greening support came in two parts.  This year, the National loan scheme in November was a valuable stimulus and a further 10 percent is arriving unannounced in accounts now.  However, that means the IT system is now delivering these payments in full over three stages.  That additional complexity is a step backwards, not forwards.  

“For many of our hill farmers and crofters, support through the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme is more valuable to them than basic support and the £65.5 million scheme injects life into the most remote and vulnerable rural communities.

“By this time last year, almost all those eligible had received 90 percent of their LFASS payment via a Scottish Government loan. But even here, the system is letting people down and a small number of producers are still waiting for either part or all of that 2015 payment.  This year, there is no clear timetable when the system will be able to deliver LFASS, and that is unacceptable.  A new LFASS loan is a priority.

“Further bad news for any farmer or crofter involved in entitlement transfer or subject to a farm inspection is that IT failings mean that they remain at the back of the queue.

“NFU Scotland has consistently pressed at all levels for a firm date when we can put these IT problems behind us.  Running a farm or croft is difficult enough without feeling that the support system which is meant to be help is conspiring against us.

“The Scottish Government has spent more than £180 million of Scottish taxpayer’s money on a system that is still not working effectively three years on.  IT failures experienced by NHS Scotland and Police Scotland have seen Scottish Government bite the bullet, seek refunds on contracts and turn off these failed systems.  

In addition, Audit Scotland has questioned whether the CAP Futures Programme will ever be fit for purpose.  Given the ongoing problems, the time is right for the Scottish Government to consider a change.”  

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 47/17


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