Jean reveals huge delay in farm payments

Basic Payment Scheme helpline - 0300 300 2222Jean Urquhart’s questioning of the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food & Environment, Richard Lochhead MSP, has revealed that the distribution of Single Farm Payments is well behind the schedule promised by the Scottish Government.

Mr Lochhead told Parliament in December that the majority of applicants would receive their first instalment by the end of January. But the Scottish Crofting Federation revealed that only 1% of their members had been paid by the middle of the month, prompting Jean to push for answers.

In the Topical Question section of Parliamentary business this afternoon, she asked the Cabinet Secretary “what percentage of single farm payment applications in the Highlands and Islands and in the rest of Scotland has been paid as of the end of January?”

Mr Lochhead admitted that only 28% of applicants in the Highlands and Islands, and less than 30% of applicants nationally, had received any of the funds due to them.

Quoting evidence from NFU Scotland that although almost 30% of applicants had received their first instalments, only 15% of the total fund has been paid out, Jean asked what proportion of the funds due to farmers in the Highlands and Islands had been paid. Mr Lochhead promised to calculate those figures and forward them to Ms Urquhart “as soon as possible”.

Jean said:

“Many crofters in the Highlands and Islands are having a very difficult time. This huge delay in payments combined with winter feeding, poor weather, and low prices for beasts, is plunging crofters and other farmers into financial emergency. Some have not even had their entitlement letters yet, and some of those that have been issued have been wrong.

“Farmers need peace of mind about their finances, and they need the money they are entitled to at this difficult time. It is essential that the Scottish Government get payments back on the schedule they promised.

“It is bad enough that less than 30% of applicants have received their first instalment, but the picture for crofters looks even worse. The Scottish Crofting Federation estimate that only 1% of their members have received payments. The Minister told us today that simpler cases were being dealt with first, which puts crofters – many of whom have had to lodge appeals due to misclassification of their land – at the back of the queue.

“Today the Minister said that officials will prioritise cases where there is hardship caused by late payments. I urge crofters and any other farmers who are in that position to call the Scottish Government helpline on 0300 300 2222 or visit their local office and ask for their application to be prioritised.”

Rural Payments offices in the Highlands and Islands are located at Inverness, Portree, Stornoway, Kirkwall, Thurso, Lerwick, Tiree, Golspie and Oban. Click here for full contact details.

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Press Release: Jean Urquhart Highlights Particular Difficulties Facing Shetland’s Dairy Industry (July 25th)

Jean Urquhart MSP has highlighted the additional strains faced by dairy farmers in Shetland as a result of the current dispute over milk costs.

The Highlands and Islands MSP spoke with some involved in the industry during her visit to Shetland last week. Commenting on their difficulties, Jean Urquhart said:

“Shetland’s dairy farmers produce a high quality product for which they deserve a fair price. The cut of two pence per litre of milk due to be introduced in August will leave farmers at a loss a situation that is wholly unsustainable.

“Although this issue is hurting farmers across Scotland, those dairy farmers in Shetland are particularly affected as it is not practical for them to export their milk.

“I believe the loss of Shetland’s dairy industry would be absolutely devastating both socially and economically, and would lead to increased transport costs and environmental damage due to the need for more imports.

“A reliance on imported milk could prove problematic in many ways, and at some point may leave the island without supplies if it ever came to depending on it totally.

“It also makes a nonsense of trying to reduce food miles and attempts to combat climate change when the islands already meet their own demand.

“It is essential that the coalition Government act decisively and increase pressure on the major retailers to recognise the critical nature of this current situation.

 “In my role as Highlands and Islands MSP, I will be seeking to support local dairy farmers as best as I can, and will work with my colleagues in the Scottish Government to save an industry that forms an essential part of Shetland’s social and economic fabric.”

“I will also be writing to the relevant retailers to better understand their thinking with regard to the pricing of milk and the importing of milk, not only in Shetland but across the region.”

ENDS

Press Release: Jean Urquhart Welcomes Comments on CAP (June 26th)

Brian Pack, an expert in agriculture and former Senior Agricultural Economist with the North of Scotland College of Agriculture, has called for Scotland to have its own voice in Common Agricultural Policy dealings.

 

Mr Pack, Speaking at Farmers’ Question Time session at last weekend’s Royal Highland Show, said that Scotland would benefit if it had an independent voice at future CAP dealings.

 

“In terms of CAP Scotland needs a seat at the table; we need to argue our own case, because what is right for English agriculture isn’t what is right for Scottish agriculture.”

 

Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands SNP MSP, said:

“Mr Pack’s comments only add further weight to our argument that Scotland will only get the best deal when it represents itself at the negotiating table.

“There are obvious and natural differences between what is best for rural Scotland and what is best for rural England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“The myopic deal-making of Westminster politicians has condemned Scotland in the past to receiving far less than its fair share. As an independent nation, we would hold far more influence and be able to secure an equitable solution for our farmers and crofters.”