The payments crisis for farmers and crofters continues, although SNP politicians may prefer it to vanish.
Audit Scotland is now investigating and failure could cost Scotland up to £50million per year with risks to future funding – a severe penalty for crofters and farmers after a very poor year.
Those who took a loan from the £20million emergency fund and those paid some subsidy from the £200million crisis fund are now being told that late repayments (by 1st September 2016) will be charged interest at 4.24%.
Scottish Government decisions on categorising land into three quality bands have added to problems. Prime land receives £80 per hectare; poorer land £8 per hectare.
These self-imposed complexities have further complicated payments. Much of the poorer land is in the northwest.
Perhaps to appease crofters, the government announced a new ‘Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme’ and invited applications in October 2015. No more has been heard. Payments are due in June.
The £65million for the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme is also in trouble. Delayed payments will be paid out on last year’s applications and IT system, again from government funds and again penalties may apply.
These payments are basically loans set up by the SNP led Scottish Government, to be repaid when this sorry mess is sorted out.
In the meantime, the £500million of EU money sits untouched! The NFU states that trust has been lost. For the sake of crofting, let’s hope that that is not all that is lost.
Isle of Lewis