The Scottish Government’s failure to put in place a plan for agriculture after Brexit increases the likelihood that farmers’ cash will be redirected to other priorities, says Mike Rumbles, MSP for the North East of Scotland.
I wrote to the Rural Economy Secretary last week calling for him to launch a full inquiry into the impact of the Scottish Government’s Common Agricultural Policy payments fiasco.
I have asked similar questions of the Minister before about the damage done by the Scottish Government’s inept handing of farm payments.
We are now in the third year of delayed Pillar 1 farm payments and there is very little light at the end of the tunnel.
When the Minister was appointed in 2016 and tasked with bringing a swift end to the crisis, he told Parliament it would not happen again ‘under his watch’.
The truth is we still do not know how great the impact has been. What we do know is £500 million of support payments have been delayed every year since 2015.
The harmful effect of this will have been felt by local suppliers, shops and services across our rural communities.
Instability in the industry, coupled with significant civil service overtime and bungle after bungle will have cost the Scottish taxpayer millions.
I sit on the Rural Affairs Committee and the last time the Minister gave evidence, I asked him why his is the only department which will see a cut in budget in both real and cash terms in 2018/19.
His response was this was not his concern and instead it was a ‘matter for the Government’s Finance Secretary’. It beggars belief.
This extraordinary answer confirms one thing – the Minister in charge of our rural economy is more concerned with stirring up trouble with his counterpart in Westminster than fighting for our rural communities.
This has been one of the many points of contention between myself and the Minister.
In February 2017, the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed an amendment, in my name, calling for a group to be tasked with designing a bespoke system of funding support for Scottish agriculture after we leave the CAP and the EU.
Despite support for this initiative from across our agricultural and environmental sectors, the Minister has again failed to carry out this duty.
Without a strong plan in place to substitute for EU funding, I am deeply concerned that both our UK and Scottish Governments will find reasons to shuffle money away from our rural economy and into other departments.
We have one more year until the Brexit deal is finalised and we must put a strong case forward to continue proper funding. Moreover, we have the opportunity to redesign the system in a way that is fairer and more beneficial for our unique industries.
Unfortunately, the Minister has decided none of this work can be done until we have a precise sum from the UK Government.
What a load of nonsense. He simply wants to create division in an effort to undermine the union. All at great cost to Scotland’s rural economy.