Ross tackles new Farming minister over payment delays

Douglas Ross - accused Cabinet Secretary of attempting to take advantage of his 'inexperience'.
Douglas Ross – accused Cabinet Secretary of attempting to take advantage of his ‘inexperience’.

FARMERS WILL WAIT until the Autumn before they will receive any further updates on the catastrophic failure of their European subsidy payments.

The new Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing, was pressed by Moray MSP Douglas Ross at Holyrood this week.

Mr Ewing made a statement to the Parliament on the failure of new computing systems to deliver payments on time when his department was under the control of Richard Lochhead MSP.

Mr Ross urged the Cabinet Secretary to return to Parliament before the summer recess and provide an update – but that was refused, with no update now possible until MSP’s return after the summer.

Mr Ross said that he welcomed the fact that the SNP Government had apologised for their handling of the payments, which he described as “frankly shambolic”. The MSP added: “The new Cabinet Secretary feels the next update can wait until the Autumn but it has to be much sooner.

“The 30th June is a crucial date as that is when payments, due since December, have to be paid to those entitled to them. It is also the last sitting day of the Parliament and would have allowed the Scottish government to inform all members and the rural communities waiting for these vital payments if they had met this deadline.

“Instead Mr Ewing preferred to use my inexperience as an MSP to suggest that would not be possible. He believes for him to come to the Chamber with just a few hours to the deadline would disrupt the work of his officials.

“Clearly he thinks many farmers will be waiting until the very last minute to find out if they will be paid before the deadline. Scottish taxpayers will also be waiting to see if they will have to pay for a fine of up to £125m that could be levied against the Scottish Government if they don’t meet the 30th June deadline.

“I hope the Cabinet Secretary will now reconsider his position and accept that he should be able to give a reassurance to Parliament at some point before the end of the working day on the 30th June.

“If he continues to refuse this request many will simply assume the Scottish government don’t believe they will meet this deadline and hope because Parliament isn’t sitting they can get away with another broken promise.

“I am certain that Scottish farmers and crofters will not let them off the hook if that is the case.”