Instant action needed cries farmers

Cabinet secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead MSP address the rally outside Holyrood
Cabinet secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead MSP address the rally outside Holyrood

Farmers from the north-east have taken to Holyrood to make clear their anger at the Scottish Government’s handling of an industry in crisis.

The frustration is over the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments, which has been the victim of a litany of errors.

The rally was organised by the National Farmers’ Union Scotland (NFUS) and took place on Thursday, March 10.

The action taken by the union has resulted in a debate on the failings with CAP delivery taking place in the Scottish Parliament on the same day.

The crowd heard from union president Alan Bowie before being addressed by Deputy First Minister John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie.

With Scottish Parliamentary elections eight weeks away, the farmers and crofters rallied in Edinburgh to highlight to Scotland’s politicians the importance of a vibrant rural economy to the nation.

A spokesperson for the NFUS said: “A key driver behind the current cash crisis on farms is Scottish Government’s problems delivering support payments to farmers and crofters because of its £180 million investment in a flawed IT system.”

NFUS president Allan Bowie said: ““The unanimous message given by Scotland’s leading politicians to us today is they recognise farming matters. We want those words to translate into actions.

“The calamitous delivery of support to the sector is the key contributor to a £300 million black hole in Scotland’s rural economy. Politicians must also address our dysfunctional supply chain.

“Rural matters must be a consideration for all MSPs.

“The failure to properly deliver farm support payments to the sector this spring has blown a hole in the rural economy.

“It shows how vulnerable farming businesses are and how reliant thousands of jobs are on primary producers.”

MSP Richard Lochhead said: “I was pleased to meet members of our farming community and hear their point of view. They are a crucial link in the £14 billion food and drink chain and I agree with no farmers, no food.”

“The issue of CAP payments was raised and I reassured farmers that, with a payment now made to 59% of farmers, the system is working. However, they are not being made fast enough. That’s why we have confirmed a £200 million injection of national funds to provide cash advances to those who have not yet received their first instalment payment by the end of this month.”