For almost every farmer and crofter, 2016 will be remembered as a year when the Scottish Government’s flawed IT system failed to deliver CAP payments, bringing Scotland’s rural economy to the brink of collapse last spring.
The Union has written to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee to state what payments remain outstanding and to stress that concerns about the capability of the whole system remain high. The Holyrood-based committee last heard evidence from Scottish Government officials on the CAP Futures IT programme in early December.
In its letter to the committee, NFU Scotland said its members fully shared the Committee’s frustration and anger in the CAP Futures programme adding that the attention and rigour the Committee has given to scrutinising the flawed £180 million IT system has provided encouragement that the sheer depth of the problem is being addressed.
The Union fully supports the Committee’s view that a clear step change must be seen in the operation and functionality of this programme if Scotland’s farmers and crofters are to have any confidence in its ability to deliver in the future.
The Union also used its letter to the Committee to point out that, while functionality is improving, the delayed payment runs are not yet complete and a significant tail of 2015 payments are still to be completed.
Problems within the CAP Futures system have prevented payments for a number of more complex claims and anomaly cases. The Union is quick to stress that these complexities and anomalies have not been the making of the claimants.
NFU Scotland Chief Executive Scott Walker said: “Whilst there has been a marked improvement in functionality of Scottish Government’s IT programme since the Auditor General’s report in May 2016, it is of little comfort to those individuals who still have claims outstanding that Scottish Government still is unable to give a clear reason for the delay, as well as a date for when these payments will be delivered. Only after these people have been paid will the debacle of 2015 payments finally be concluded.
“Whilst the majority of 2015 payments have been completed, those that are still awaiting payments or continue to face administrative hurdles are having the future of their farm businesses unnecessarily undermined.
“We understand several thousand Scottish farmers and crofters have yet to have 2015 claims completely settled. The list includes those who have applied for Less Favoured Areas support; the beef calf scheme; the hill ewe hogg scheme; Rural Priorities; Land Managers Options and those who entered into private contract clauses to transfer Basic Payment Scheme entitlements.
“In value, it amounts to several millions from 2015 schemes that have yet to enter farming bank accounts – even though we are now in the second week of 2017.
“We understand that the Committee has requested a fresh update from Scottish Government on its CAP IT system by the end of this month.
“It is essential that focus remains on resolving these outstanding cases from 2015; and NFUS hopes to see Scottish Government come forward with a step change in delivery that gives an unambiguous timetable for the delivery of the 2016 balance payments, and future payment rounds across all schemes in 2017 and beyond.
“NFU Scotland is adamant that 2017 must see Scottish Government draw a line under the long running payment debacle and put farmers and crofters on a clear footing with regards to payments.”