Union demands that 2017 brings a step change in CAP payments delivery

NFU Scotland has called on Scottish Government to ensure that 2017 sees a step change in delivery of CAP support to the Scottish sector.
For almost every farmer and crofter, 2016 will be remembered as a year when the Scottish Government’s flawed IT system failed to deliver CAP payments, bringing Scotland’s rural economy to the brink of collapse last spring.
A robust and tireless lobbying effort from the Union, including a demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament in March, secured loan schemes to the value of £500 million that plugged the huge gap in the rural economy.  This November saw Scottish Government agree to an NFUS request to repeat the loan scheme arrangement, delivering more than £265 million into farm and croft accounts in the last two months of the year.
However, farmer frustration and anger with the whole system remains high.  Further recent IT failures saw overpayment to some loan scheme applicants, and money requiring to be clawed back, while some loan scheme offers were incorrectly issued as they had failed to take an applicant’s hill ground into consideration.  An Audit Commission report earlier this year questioned whether the £180 million IT system would ever be fit for purpose.
NFU Scotland is adamant that 2017 must see Scottish Government draw a line under the long running payment debacle and put farmers and crofters on a clear footing with regards to payments. 
Its requests include a clear timeline being set, not only for the delivery of balance payments for the 2017 Basic Payment and Greening schemes, but for all schemes due in the year ahead including coupled schemes for hill sheep and beef calves and important rural development schemes such as Less Favoured Areas and agri-environment.
NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie said: “The level of frustration and lack of trust in Scottish Government’s ability to properly deliver payments across all schemes in a timely manner remains unprecedented.
“We want to see 2017 bring a step change in Scottish Government’s delivery and a return back to a more normal situation.
“On the positive side, there was a marked improvement in the scheme application process.  We need that improvement to continue when 2017 online applications go live next spring.
“But where the Scottish Government must improve is in setting a clear timeline for all 2017 payments so that farmers can manage their cash flows.  And when payments are made in 2017, we must see those followed by information to claimants, clearly stating what they have been paid and how it has been calculated.
“If payments to claimants are to be delayed, then information on the reasons for those delays must be made available.  Too often our members have received a shrug of the shoulders in response to queries, and despite the best efforts of local SGRPID staff, the reason a payment is being held up is never identified.  
“The ability to address the ongoing delivery problems is in the gift of the Scottish Government.  Come next autumn, we want to be convinced that support scheme delivery will be seamless and the need for national loans no longer required. However, if we believe that the IT system is set to fail again then our members can be reassured that we will be looking for Scottish Government to act.
“It is going to take considerable time for farmers and crofters to have confidence once more in the payments system.  But that confidence and trust will come with consistency, reliability and delivery on time.”  

Date Published:

News Article No.: 272/16

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