Nicola Sturgeon apologises over botched EU farming subsidies
Nicola Sturgeon has been forced to apologise to Scottish farmers over delayed payments of EU subsidies.
The First Minister said there was “no complacency” in the Scottish government regarding the Common Agricultural Policy payments. The payments were due last year but many have not reached farmers because of a failure in the government’s computer systems.
The deadline for the payments was next week but the government has requested an extension until 15 October in an attempt to avoid a fine from the EU.
Ms Sturgeon came under fire after the request for an extension was initially kept under wraps, and was only made public by the European Commission on Thursday.
She said yesterday: “We have already apologised and we do so again today to farmers for the failures that have been experienced in the system and I guarantee that we will continue to give this matter our full focus and attention to ensure that farmers get the service that they deserve.”
“At present we've made more than £249m of these payments and of course farmers have been given access to loans pending the delivery of their actual payments. We are making significant progress now on payments and on resolving the remaining IT issues in the system.
“I want to assure you today...there's no complacency on the Scottish government's part about this matter.”
As many as 5,000 farmers out of a total of 18,000 have not yet received their payments.
Scott Walker, chief executive of the National Farmers Union Scotland, said the farming community “don’t actually want more apologies”.
“We've had a lot of apologies and we do appreciate that everything that can be done is being done to put payments out. But we don't actually want any more apologies, we want the situation to be corrected. We want farmers to get the payments when they're due, because these payments are vital, not just for farmers but for the whole rural economy.
“We're just right at the deadline, and we're now being told that extensions are being asked for. That's not going to restore any confidence in terms of farmers and crofters that are due their payments."