Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary is reportedly at the centre of a row with at least one senior civil servant.
The Times newspaper this morning (March 12) claimed that meetings were held yesterday during which Mr Ewing was accused of putting undue pressure on officials to expedite payments of the £40 million Scottish Suckler Beef Support Scheme (SBSS), known colloquially as the ’calf scheme’.
The SBSS is one of the very few schemes directly linked to production with the fund distributed according to the number of claims made by December 31 each year.
The rate paid per beef sired calf is variable and calculated after the total number of claims has been established.
The complaint against Mr Ewing has not been formalised but would appear to relate to officials being instructed to make payments which they did not see as being properly verified or appropriate.
Over his five years as Rural Economy Secretary Mr Ewing has become known for making strenuous efforts to make farm payments on time as a means of making up for earlier IT related deficiencies at the Rural Payments and Inspection Directorate (RPID).