Almost a third of farm businesses in Scotland have decided not to take part in the Scottish Government’s National Basic Payment Support Scheme, leaving over £200 million in government coffers rather than being used to support the rural economy.
In a letter to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, the Minister responsible for the scheme admitted that only 12500 of the nearly 18000 eligible farm businesses had taken up the offer, despite the deadline for applications less than a week away (Wed 14th Dec). The unexpected low take-up has meant that millions of pounds worth of farm subsidies that would usually be invested in Scotland’s agricultural sector in December will now be delayed by at least six months – if it even appears at all.
North East MSP Mike Rumbles said: “Confidence in the Scottish Government to deliver these payments has been severely undermined by poor management and a series of needless blunders. That lack of trust has put many of our rural businesses at risk and means many won’t see that vital cash injection until the summer next year.
“The SNP promised issues with the payment IT system would be resolved by summer 2016, they promised the 80% loan would mean no-one would be overpaid and they promised that taxpayer’s money would not be wasted delivering the scheme. They have failed at every turn.
“It’s no wonder farmers don’t trust this Government, our rural economy has been bruised one to many times and many farmers just can’t take the risk the system won’t fail them again. That is why I am calling for an inquiry into this abysmal situation, what went wrong and why.”
Notes for editors:
- Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, in attendance at the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee today, confirmed that around 5300 farm businesses had not taken up the scheme and that £200 million, set aside for Basic Payments, remains on the Government’s accounts.