An MSP has called on the Scottish Government to launch an inquiry to find out how three years’ worth of delayed farm payments has affected the wider rural community, both economically and socially.
Mike Rumbles, who represents North East Scotland and is rural affairs spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, made the demand in a letter to Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing this week.
In his letter, Mr Rumbles said he had ‘no doubt’ that the delay in payments would have had a detrimental impact on Scotland’s rural economy because many offshoot industries benefit indirectly from Common Agricultural Policy support payments.
He also suggested Scottish taxpayers had a right to know how much had been spent on staff overtime and other additional costs as the Government battled to get back on track.
“The Scottish Government’s embarrassing shambles over farm payments has been rolling on for the past three years and we still do not know the full extent of the damage to our rural economy”, Mr Rumbles said.
“Millions of pounds of support payments have been delayed every year since 2015. The impact of that has been felt by local suppliers, shops and services across our rural economy, as well as by farm businesses.
“I want to see a thorough and meaningful assessment carried out by the Scottish Government.
“Businesses and communities which have been affected deserve to know the full extent of the economic damage and the additional cost to the taxpayer.”
Last year, a report by Scotland’s Auditor General slammed the £180 million IT system which processes farm payments.
It found difficulties encountered in previous years continued to have a ‘significant impact on the progression of current applications for payments’.
Problems with the system, defended by Mr Ewing, have forced Ministers to issue loans to farmers to ensure they receive some money.