Scotland’s new rural affairs secretary Fergus Ewing has apologised to farmers for CAP payment delays and promised that sorting out the scheme will be his number one priority for the foreseeable future.
In a statement to the Scottish parliament, Mr Ewing acknowledged the anger, frustration and hardship experienced by farmers as a result of problems with the implementation of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in Scotland.
“I want to start off with three simple words addressed by me on behalf of the Scottish government to all farmers and crofters who have suffered as result: We are sorry,” he said.
“And follow it up with four words: We are fixing it.”
Mr Ewing claimed progress had been made and most farmers and crofters should now have received the bulk of their due payment.
I want to start off with three simple words addressed by me on behalf of the Scottish government to all farmers and crofters who have suffered as result: We are sorry. Fergus Ewing
According to the Scottish government’s weekly figures, 15,222 out of 18,137 eligible claims had been paid by 25 May, which is 84% of claimants.
In addition, the government paid out 5,000 nationally-funded BPS loans during the month of April, worth more than £90m, and more than 40% of these had been repaid already as the main EU-funded payments have been processed, he said.
The government also expected to start payments soon under the coupled support scheme for sheep, and to complete payments under the two schemes for beef cattle.
“The government is doing everything possible to get those payments out before the end of June.
“The resolution of the CAP payment problems will not be achieved overnight, nor by any single or simple set of actions.
“But I believe that we shall substantially resolve these difficulties and pledge to all that it will be my first and foremost priority in my new role to bring about that resolution.”
Douglas McAdam, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, welcomed the statement and said it was clear Mr Ewing understood where problems remained.
“The farming payment crisis has placed immense stress on rural businesses throughout Scotland but the apology and update from the Cabinet secretary is a welcome step in the Scottish government getting a grip on this matter.
“It must be remembered that this is not just a crisis affecting farmers but has severe knock-on consequences for the whole supply chain, especially in rural areas that are heavily dependent on the farming sector for the majority of their trade.”