The Scottish government has come under fire for another blunder in its farm support system that could affect hundreds of farmers and crofters.
Letters have been issued outlining payments under a new national loan scheme, which has been set up due to problems with the £178m IT system for delivering direct payments.
The £300m loan scheme is being offered to about 17,000 of the 18,300 farmers and crofters who have applied to 2016 CAP support schemes.
It will offer applicants 80% of the support farmers would expect to receive, with the loan due to be paid in the first few weeks of November. NFU Scotland has welcomed the introduction of the scheme.
However, it has emerged that the information used to calculate the sums is wrong in many cases. For hundreds of farmers and crofters, not all the Region 3 land they included in their claim has been included in the loan calculations.
The Scottish government has acknowledged the error – but only after the letters had been printed and sent for distribution.
Now staff need to phone each individual farmer or crofter who has been affected to say that they will be granted an extra week for their loan payment to be dealt with.
NFU Scotland understands that hundreds of farmers and crofters are affected. They will receive new loan offer letters and will be given an extra week (until 19 October) to respond.
The latest blunder emerged as an Audit Scotland report showed the loan system carried a number of risks, which could include overpayment and delays to other loans in the Scottish budget.
Scott Walker, chief executive at NFU Scotland, said: “The loan scheme is a recognition of the fact that the IT system would not deliver 2016 CAP monies in good time.
“The Scottish government saw the car crash this would have had on the rural economy and pre-empted it by introducing a loan scheme to help ensure that finances in the rural economy would keep moving.
“To hear that another IT flaw has caused problems for the loan scheme is deeply disappointing. Once again farmers and crofters will justifiably be asking when this system will ever be fit for purpose.”
‘We regret miscalculation’
A Scottish government spokeswoman said: “Clearly we regret this miscalculation – which has nothing to do with the new IT system.
“We have acted very swiftly to address it and to ensure it doesn’t affect the timetable for getting the loan payments to farmers.”