Shadow Rural Economy Secretary Peter Chapman has challenged Nicola Sturgeon to give farmers a guarantee that 2017 subsidy payments will be delivered on time.
The Scottish Conservative MSP used First Minister’s Questions to lambast the Scottish Government’s record on processing EU funds, with a catalogue of errors over the past year continuing into last week.
Mr Chapman cited an overpayment of £746,000 in loans to 166 farmers and a data protection blunder affecting the Beef Efficiency Scheme as the most recent examples.
The First Minister said that her government was “absolutely focused” on delivering next year’s payments on time, but stopped short of offering any guarantee.
Speaking after FMQs, the North East Region MSP said: “I am disappointed but not surprised that the First Minister has been unable to provide a categoric assurance for our rural communities today.
“The SNP government’s handling of farm subsidy payments for the past year has been an absolute disaster.
“Ministers have been forced back to parliament time after time to defend the latest blunders, but NFU Scotland said today that the level of frustration among farmers remains unprecedented.
“What is worse is that the NFU says there is still a lack of trust in the Scottish Government’s ability to properly deliver payments across all schemes in a timely manner.
“Given the shambolic nature of the past year, you can hardly blame our farmers and crofters for taking that view.
“As we approach the end of the year, however, it is vital that in 2017 we see the government get its act together on farm payments and prevent any further problems.
“That does not just mean getting the payments in on time, but also providing the correct information so that people know what they are getting and under which scheme.
“The lack of information has proved one of the most confusing and frustrating parts of this whole sorry episode and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”