Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has today called on the new Agricultural Minister, Fergus Ewing to act immediately to help reassure farmers and crofters following a damming Audit Scotland report into the Scottish Government’s handling of the farm payments scheme.
The report from Audit Scotland, released today, has revealed a litany of failures and staggering incompetence. It stated that the CAP Futures programme continues to experience serious cost and operational issues and is unlikely to ever deliver value for money.
That led Audit Scotland to come to the alarming conclusion that, with £126 million already spent, funds could run out before the IT system fully meets European Commission regulations.
It is estimated that as a result of the crisis, over £300 million has been lost to rural economies, including Orkney.
The Audit Scotland report also revealed that less than 1% of the Scottish Government’s £20m hardship fund to help farmers and crofters hit by payments delays has been accessed.
Commenting, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said:
“Audit Scotland's verdict is damning. The new Agriculture Minister, Fergus Ewing has a tough job on his hands but must immediately get to grips with the brief in order to sort out this mess.
“SNP Ministers have had £178 million to get their new IT system right. Despite the high and rising cost to taxpayers, however, Audit Scotland have concluded that the Scottish Government could yet run out of money before this is even achieved.
“Meanwhile farmers and crofters in Orkney trying to run their businesses have been left in the lurch. The cash flow problems created by this shambles have also caused difficulties for the wider economy.
“Farmers and crofters need to have the confidence that payments will arrive before the end of June. Answers are needed, and fast.
"I have worked closely with Fergus Ewing during his time as Energy Minister. I will be looking for an early meeting to discuss with him how he intends to respond to the serious failures laid out by Audit Scotland. Orkney's farming community will be looking for answers.”