The Scottish Conservatives yesterday, 1st June 2016, challenged the SNP to guarantee that taxpayers will not face a bill of up to £125 Million in EU fines due to the CAP payment fiasco.
Rural Affairs spokesman Peter Chapman said an apology to parliament from the Cabinet Secretary ‘does nothing’ to make up for the ‘months of chaos and heartbreak’ in the rural economy due to the delays in processing the vital funds.
Mr Chapman, a North East Region MSP, said that if 95% of payments are not made by 30th June , then the government could face tens of millions of pounds in fines.
Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, said in a statement to parliament that the government was aiming to ‘minimise penalties’ but stopped short of making a commitment that the payment deadline will be met.
Mr Chapman said: ‘Time and time again over the past six months, government ministers have had to come to this Chamber and explain that they need more time to get payments out. That, simply, is unacceptable.
‘It has also completely eroded farmers’ trust in this government. In order to regain that trust, I hope that the Minister will today commit to all payments being with farmers and crofters by the end of June.
‘This deadline is important because of how vital this money is to farmers -but also because, unless 95% is paid by this date, the government will be liable for fines from the EU of up to £125million.
‘This would not simply impact upon the farming community – but also the public purse, as taxpayers ultimately will have to foot the bill.
‘It is disappointing that the Cabinet Secretary was not in a position to offer a guarantee that that will not happen, and we will be making sure that the government is held to account on this issue.’