THE MORAY FARMING community is suffering because the Scottish Government have “badly mishandled” the payment of vital subsidies.
That was the view being put forward last night by local councillor and Holyrood candidate Councillor Douglas Ross, who said that thousands of farmers throughout the country are suffering because of delays.
Scotland’s environment minister and Moray MSP, Richard Lochhead, has conceded that the vast majority are still waiting to receive their CAP payments – despite promises that they would be delivered in December.
Mr Ross said: “The SNP Scottish Government has badly mishandled this whole episode, and it is Scottish farmers who are being left to pick up the pieces.
“In September the EU allowed the Scottish Government to make early payments to farmers, only requiring that computer admin checks be conducted. We now know that the Irish Government took advantage of this flexibility.
“The Scottish Government had October and November to do this too. What we now know is that the Mr Lochhead’s computer system was not working then, and is not working now. Richard Lochhead’s incompetence meant that a golden opportunity to get money into the hands of farmers was lost.
“Despite this, a combination of bad management and the shambles of the computer system means most farmers are still waiting for their payment, with many having no idea when they will receive the money.
“The combination of late payments, severe weather and low prices are causing real hardship to many farmers in Moray and they need to know when they can expect the money they have been promised.
“It’s high time Richard Lochhead started taking responsibility for the situation and got on top of this issue for his local constituents and farmers across Scotland.”
Questioned by Labour MSP Jean Urquhart in Holyrood on Tuesday what percentage of payments had been made, Mr Lochhead confirmed that only 28% of applicants from the Highlands and Islands region had been paid their subsidy cash.
Mrs Urquhart said: “It is essential that the Scottish Government get payments back on the schedule they promised – farmers need piece of mind about their finances and they need the money they are entitled to at this difficult time.”