Orkney MSP Liam McArthur today raised local concerns with the Agriculture Secretary as delays with Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments continue to hit farmers and crofters across Orkney.
Speaking in Parliament today during Topical Questions, Mr McArthur used the example of a constituent from one of the smaller isles to highlight to the Agriculture Secretary the problems being caused. The constituent confirmed that she has yet to receive a letter that details her entitlement while the Government’s online record does not even show an acknowledgement of the farm she and her husband rent.
Mr McArthur told the Cabinet Secretary that his constituent had even phone the government’s helpline, but found that ‘staff aren’t even allowed to look up people’s payments ... we now seem to have fallen into the hole within the department where no one knows anything about our application.’”
Orkney’s MSP concluded by asking Richard Lochhead: “Having failed to meet the January deadline, what reassurance can the cabinet secretary give that the measures that he has now announced will allow my constituent and many like her to get the information and, indeed, the payments that they are looking for?”
In response, Richard Lochhead confirmed he “will certainly investigate what the particular crofter or farmer has been told.”
Following the exchanges, Mr McArthur said:
“I welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s willingness to investigate the specific case that I raised today. However, this is only one of many that have been highlighted to me over recent weeks.
“There is mounting frustration as deadlines comes and go and information is simply not being made available. The Minister has confirmed more staff are being deployed, but this seems rather late in the day. There is also a risk that these problems drag on beyond May, when the next round of applications is due.
“Mr Lochhead encourages farmers and crofters who are in need to approach the Hardship Fund for support. They just want the Minister to deliver on his promises”.