A Lewis crofter has accused the Scottish Government of running a “fundamentally flawed” rural department after his application for grant support was rejected.
Calum Mackay, who runs a croft in Achmore, has written a letter outlining his grievances to Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism Mairi Gougeon, Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan, and Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil.
In his letter, Mr Mackay outlines his application for financial support through the Scottish Government’s Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme (CAGS) to erect 420-metres of fencing on his croft.
The application was submitted on February 1, 2020, and Mr Mackay had to wait five months until July 29, 2020, for a site inspection due to Covid-19 restrictions.
At the inspection, Mr Mackay said he was told there were no issues with his CAGS application and he’d be given official approval for the grant within three weeks.
“Following eight weeks of total silence I had to chase for feedback – we’re now into September – during that period I had set in a number of fence strainers at my own cost,” said Mr Mackay in his letter.
He said he decided to proceed with the fencing project in October after “weeks of constant deluge” resulted in flooding and one of his breeding gimmers drowning, however this resulted in his CAGS application being rejected.
“I take the decision to start the project, with a view to making good use of time and having my animal welfare issue addressed,” said Mr Mackay’s letter.
“The local officer gets in touch to inform me that I no longer qualify for grant aid because I took the decision to start fencing before costs were approved – they knew all details of my application over six months prior.”
Mr Mackay said he appealed the decision “on the basic principles of fairness and reason” and was offered no opportunity to discuss the issue or find a resolution with senior managers at the Scottish Government’s Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (SGRPID).
The appeal was rejected and in his letter, Mr Mackay said: “I realise my experience is echoed in many crofter’s frustrations.
“Therefore, I offer my example as clear evidence how a department, intended for rural development, is fundamentally flawed.”
Mr Mackay’s letter also makes reference to his three adult children and says: “My message to them is simple – do not enter crofting with the illusion that government help is ever at hand.
“SGRPID is an unaccountable, non-transparent government department with a licence to behave pretty much as they please. A scandal that needs to be addressed.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Following the submission of a complaint on our standards of service, we are investigating the background to the case and will respond to the crofter directly in due course.
“We take any complaints around our standard of service seriously and will investigate thoroughly.”