Rural Economy Secretary pledges to put system on ‘even keel’.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has pledged to make resolving the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payment problems his first and foremost priority.
In a statement to Parliament, Mr Ewing confirmed that most farmers and crofters should have received most of their due payments and that the Government is doing everything possible to get remaining payments out before the end of June.
Looking ahead, Mr Ewing also said one of his main objectives was to see 2016 payments on a proper footing with no repeat of the problems faced in 2015-16.
Mr Ewing said:
"From day one in the job and for the foreseeable future the resolution of the CAP payments issues are my top priority. I want to assure all those in rural communities that I will devote all necessary time and attention to that task. It is my number one priority.
"Progress is being made. By the end of April, all eligible farmers should have received a substantial payment from the Government unless they chose to opt-out of the nationally funded loan scheme. That payment will have been worth around 80 per cent of their estimated entitlement.
"However, the resolution of the CAP payments problems will not be achieved overnight, nor by any single or simple set of actions.
"We have already started to fix these problems and I have three objectives; to complete 2015 payments so farmers get their money as soon as possible, to deliver compliance and minimise any financial penalties and to see 2016 payments on a proper footing.
"I am determined that the Government learn lessons from the Futures programme. However, I do not wish to distract from the clear and present task of getting the last payments out to farmers and crofters. Now is the time to focus on that. But I can confirm that there will be a process to learn lessons.
"I am also determined to oversee and drive forward the work necessary to bring this payment regime back onto an even keel."