The pressure is mounting on the Scottish Government to ditch computer checks, release EU farm support, then face the consequences.
This evening NFUS leaders will meet Scotland’s First Minister ahead of a rally of farmers and crofters at Holyrood later in the week, and press her to pay £300 million of EU funds currently being processed at a snail’s pace by the Government’s £180m IT system.
Willie Rennie, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, visited a Perthshire farm on Monday to gauge the knock-on impact of the delayed payments.
He said: “It would certainly appear that the Scottish Government is being overly cautious in its approach and needs to push the EU much harder to get approval for measures which would allow them to take the necessary action and make these payments which keep the entire rural economy going.”
On a farm outside Balbeggie, NFUS president Allan Bowie said that since it now looked like the new IT system would struggle to make all payments on time, the Scottish Government should move to pay them on the best information available then sort out the mess after the money had gone out the door.
He said: “We have been asking for details of any penalties which might be faced for some time but so far the Scottish Government has not put a figure on this.
“Meanwhile, the entire rural economy is paying the price and has ground to a halt because payments due for services which farmers have delivered are not being made.”
Ahead of his meeting with the First Minister, Mr Bowie added: “With the Scottish Parliament closing down on March 24 ahead of the Scottish elections in May, Scottish Government has a short window in which to turn this disastrous situation around.
“We want our Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead to finish what he started and deliver payments to farmers now.
“If that requires intervention by the First Minister to deliver, then she would have the agricultural communities’ backing.”
Meanwhile, the union is urging farmers and crofters to rally at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on Thursday at 11am.
The rally is intended to highlight to Scotland’s politicians the deepening cash crisis in the countryside.
In a briefing to MSPs last week, the NFUS laid out a list of requirements which included a call for an independent inquiry into the problems Scotland encountered in delivering support payments this year, to ensure the same situation does not occur in future.