One in five farmers have still not received their EU subsidies with less than a week to go before the deadline, rural affairs secretary Fergus Ewing has confirmed.
Speaking at Holyrood’s rural affairs committee, Mr Ewing came under fire for the outstanding Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments, which could lead to a hefty £60m EU fine.
Scottish Liberal Democrat rural spokesman Mike Rumbles said the minister had “presided over CAP shambles 2.0.
“It’s no surprise the Cabinet Secretary has failed to meet this deadline – he has back-tracked on every commitment and promise made over the CAP debacle,” he said.
“He is completely oblivious to the disarray in our agricultural sector and that our rural economy has taken damaging hit after damaging hit. It has been almost two years since this debacle began and there is no end in sight.”
Scottish Labour’s rural affairs spokeswoman Rhoda Grant called for Mr Ewing to be sacked after the payments “descended into farce and secrecy yet again.
“Nicola Sturgeon should reshuffle her cabinet and start clearing the chaos she has inflicted on our rural communities.”
Scottish Conservative rural affairs spokesman Peter Chapman
accused the SNP of “completely lacking in transparency” over plans to beg the EU for an extension.
“It’s simply not good enough for figures as senior as the First Minister to shrug her shoulders when repeatedly asked something, even though her cabinet had already been informed.”
Speaking after the committee grilling, Mr Ewing said 15,115 payments worth £311 million had been made as of Tuesday.
He said: “We are making progress, but we still need to do better.
“We have made a clear commitment to do all we can to make the 2016 payments by the end of this week and our staff are working as hard as they can to process the remaining payments.
“The very latest assessment looks like we may miss the target of 95.24% by a small amount.
“However our priority remains completing payments for farmers and crofters as quickly as possible in the coming weeks.”
He said: “As of close of business last night, we have made 15,115 BPS and greening payments valued at £311 million. This represents around 82% of total payments.?
“A total of £275 million was made available via BPS loans, with this funding paid earlier than payments were expected under the previous system, providing important financial security.”