McArthur: No end in sight to the farm payments debacle

Liam McArthur MSP

Following the publication of the Scottish Government’s plan to stabilize improve the process for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has said there still remains “no end in sight to the farm payment debacle.”

Yesterday afternoon saw the publication of the Scottish Government’s Common Agricultural Policy – Plan for Stabilisation document, which outlines that a number of improvements that the government will make to the payments system.

Part of the plan includes launching a loan scheme for eligible 2017 Basic Payment Scheme customers.

Announcing the plan in parliament, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing, said: “We are absolutely committed to ensuring that CAP entitlements are paid promptly and in full, and I am clear that we have not achieved that aim in recent times.

“So in order to deliver payments in full and on a more certain timetable, I am committing to tackling the major causes of poor customer service and experience. This plan, will target specific and sustainable improvements in our approach, business and IT processes, and importantly puts our customers first.

“The plan will produce a leaner service that better helps customers to understand what to expect and when, when applying for future funding, enabling them to plan ahead. “

However, Mr McArthur has said that Scottish Ministers should be embarrassed and three years after the launch of the £180 million IT system there remains no signs of being up to the task.

Mr McArthur said: “After his appointment, the Cabinet Secretary promised he would clear up this mess. Instead he is telling farmers and crofters in Orkney, and across Scotland, that they can go on applying for loans to cover 90 per cent of their annual CAP payment. There would be no need for a loan if the IT system worked.

“This shambles is beyond a joke. The delays have been costly, not just for farmers and crofters but also for wider supply chain businesses in communities such as Orkney.

“In the face of losing £10 million a year on maintaining a broken IT system, Mr Ewing faces a dilemma. Either he can cut his losses and ditch this hapless IT system or find a way at last to fix it. If it is the latter, this has to be the last chance saloon.”

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