Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing has been accused of “obfuscating” over the Scottish Government’s failure to deliver crucial CAP payments on time.
The minister clashed with North East MSP Mike Rumbles over revelations 473 farmers were still waiting for their cash to be processed.
Mr Ewing denied these farmers have received no money at all, pointing out that “99%” have been offered loans from the government in the interim.
But Mr Rumbles accused him of attempting to muddy the waters in a bid to cover for the administration’s failure to deliver the EU cash.
Farmers across the country have suffered crippling delays in receiving their CAP payments amid a £178million Scottish Government IT foul-up.
Mr Rumbles had asked Mr Ewing it was accurate that 473 farmers had still “received nothing”.
The Cabinet Secretary asked officials to confirm the figure, before adding: “I understand the vast majority of the 473 will have received the offer of a loan. I’m just putting it into perspective.
“I think I am entitled to point out that you said they received nothing, which is not I believe factually accurate.
“They will in almost all cases have received a loan. The information I have is that over 99% of eligible claimants have either had a CAP payment or the offer of a loan.
“I wouldn’t want anyone to misrepresent the numbers of claimants who have received nothing whatsoever financially.
“I am sure Mr Rumbles would not wish to do that either.”
But Scottish Liberal Democrat Mr Rumbles accused Mr Ewing of trying to dodge his question.
He told MSPs at the Rural Economy and Connectivity committee: “Convener, I would like the minister not to obfuscate here.
“The point is – I am not talking about loans. When a loan is given to a farm business, it is not covering their whole amount of money that they are due.”
The Scottish Government was facing potentially hefty fines from Brussels after it failed to meet EU deadlines for delivering the payments.
Commission officials, however, extended the cut-off point until next month.