On 8 June 2016, Phil Hogan (the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development) announced that the deadline for paying European subsidies to farmers and crofters has been extended from 30 June 2016 to 15 October 2016.
Had this extension not been granted, failure to deliver payments by the end of June could have cost the Scottish Government between £40m and £125m in European Union fines.
One of the priorities for the SNP as they enter a new parliament is to fix the faults that caused a delay in payments reaching farmers and crofters. These payments should have reached applicants by December 2015.
However, due to well-publicised problems with the IT system, many farmers are yet to receive their payments.
Ahead of the EU commissioner’s announcement, Fergus Ewing in his new role as cabinet secretary for rural economy and connectivity delivered a statement to parliament apologising for what had happened and confirming that the Scottish Government is fixing the IT faults which caused the administrative problems and delays.
Ewing set out three objectives:
- To complete the 2015 payments so that farmers receive their payments as soon as possible;
- To deliver compliance with and to minimise any financial penalties (from missing deadlines): and
- To put the 2016 payments on “a proper footing”.
Ewing states that his top priority is to get the last of the payments out to farmers and crofters. As affected claimants continue to face cashflow pressures, his efforts to deliver on this commitment are likely to face ongoing scrutiny.