Orkney MSP Liam McArthur today joined farmers and crofters outside Parliament as they rally over the on-going delays to the distribution of vital support payments.
Despite the Scottish Government spending £178 million on a computer system to distribute basic payments under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), many farmers are yet to receive a penny, with payments now four months late.
To date, only £100 million of support under basic Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) schemes has been paid out from a total budget of almost £400 million.
The National Farmers Union of Scotland say the delay in payments, alongside poor commodity prices, has created a cash flow crisis with ramifications for the entire supply chain. It also undermines the confidence of new entrants, thinking of entering the sector.
Mr McArthur was joined at the rally by local Orkney NFUS Chair, Paul Ross and Westray NFUS Chair, Philip Bews and around 250 farmers and crofters from across Scotland.
Commenting after the rally, Liam McArthur said:
“This is the first time that the NFUS has organised such a mass demonstration at the Scottish Parliament.
“Given the effect that delays in payments are having on farmers and crofters across the country, it was no surprise to see a strong turn-out for today’s rally. There is real anger and frustration at the government’s handling of this issue, described by the NFUS President as ‘calamitous’.
“It is welcome that the Scottish Government has at last announced £200m of emergency funding to help deliver payments by the end of March. However, there is still no answer as to why it has taken so long, and the intervention of the First Minister, to make this happen.
“Questions also remain about the £178m IT system on which the Scottish Government pinned all its hopes. There are still signs that it is not up to the task. Meanwhile the system for delivering the uplift for island beef farmers doesn’t even appear to exist yet.
“All of which means, we have seen a loss of around £300m that otherwise would have been circulating within rural economies, including Orkney. The impact of this unholy mess is being felt well beyond simply farm businesses and there is a growing concern that it will spill over into next year.
“At this stage, Scottish Ministers have their work cut out to restore confidence and repair the damage done to our farming sector”.