Probe needed into crofters’ payment shambles, says MSP

Calls have been made for a full independent inquiry into the deepening cash crisis faced by farmers and crofters.

Conservative rural affairs spokesman, Alex Fergusson, plans to demand a probe into the Scottish government’s £178 million IT failures which have dogged the controversial basic payments scheme.

Mr Fergusson says he will raise a motion in the Scottish parliament tomorrow.

The long-running payment mix up means only 56 per cent of producers in the country have received the cheques which they should have received by the end of December.

Scottish rural affairs minister, Richard Lochhead, has faced renewed criticism in light of the problems.

Local NFUS representative, Jim Nicolson, said the cost of the failed computer system was “mind-boggling”.

“I certainly think there needs to be an inquiry, especially into the tremendously expensive computer system that’s really been failing to do what it’s supposed to do.

“It’s obviously costing far too much money, in any case, even if it were working. We’re speaking about something that is nearly half the cost of the [£414 million] Scottish parliament, and there were a lot of concerns about that.”

He said farmers welcomed the prospect of Less Favoured Area Payments due to be made during the last week of this month. But he said alternative ways of getting the basic payments scheme paid out should be examined.

Mr Nicolson added a number of farmers and crofters in the isles had secondary incomes which offset the difficulties they were experiencing but insisted many were “still struggling”.

“We’re coming to a time now where cattle and sheep require a lot of supplementary feeding, and folk will be looking to purchase fertiliser.

“It’s very much the case that folk are having to extend, or take out, overdrafts from the banks to tide them over.”


“It’s obviously costing far too much money, in any case, even if it were working. We’re speaking about something that is nearly half the cost of the [£414 million] Scottish parliament, and there were a lot of concerns about that.” JIM NICOLSON

However, isles MSP Tavish Scott said he did not understand why an inquiry was needed.

He highlighted plans by Scotland’s Auditor General to release findings later this year into an assessment of how payments to producers have been delivered.

“I don’t understand it because Audit Scotland is that independent body and their work is under way which is right,” he said.

“I believe that Audit Scotland will lay bare the utter shambles and incompetence of the government in failing crofters in Shetland and elsewhere. When they do heads must roll.”

Isles Tory candidate, Cameron Smith, said: “I fully support Alex Fergusson’s call for a full inquiry into the payments debacle.

“By the end of last month some 50 per cent of farmers had received some of the payment due, but that is far from Richard Lochhead’s assurances that ‘most’ farmers would have received their payments by the end of January.

“Further, the promise made for the end of January was the third indicative deadline given by the cabinet secretary. I find it hard now to trust any assurances given by the [Scottish] government on this issue, and an independent inquiry is needed to get to the bottom of the problem.

“I’ve been raising this issue locally for many months now, including with the European Commissioner responsible in Strasbourg.”

However, SNP MSP Angus MacDonald said: “It is quite spectacular hypocrisy from the Tories to try and score political points over farm support – when their own farming minister is set on seeing the support abolished in its entirety by dragging Scotland out of the EU.

“The truth is that the Tory government has refused to give our farming communities any information about the future of the support payments they’ll receive if we’re out of Europe – the Tories in Scotland should come clean on their own farming minister’s plans.”

Mr Smith retorted: “I think for the SNP to try to deflect from a real issue affecting not just crofters directly but also related business across Scotland but particularly in the Highlands and Islands is beneath an administration that claims to be standing up for all of the people of Scotland.”

NFU representatives are due to meet First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today on the issue. A rally is due to be staged by the NFUS at Holyrood before FMQs.


Add Your Comment
  • Ali Inkster

    • March 8th, 2016 20:17

    Whether late or not who the hell thought paying £178 million on software to process 14000 payments. Have they never heard of exel.

  • john flett

    • March 8th, 2016 22:28

    £178000000 is a lot of money for what is basically a computer program,is it not ? but why not copy the French system as most of the C O P seems to get to them ok .

  • john flett

    • March 8th, 2016 22:29

    sorry C A P

  • John Tulloch

    • March 9th, 2016 9:45

    I haven’t commented on the £178 million computer system to process 14,000 payments because, thinking it to be too far-fetched, I didn’t actually believe the story. I assumed it to have been exaggerated out of all proportion by opposing politicians?

    But I hear no denials from, either, the SNP Scottish government or their many and varied supporters who haunt this forum?

  • Robin Stevenson

    • March 9th, 2016 12:40

    ‘Who haunt this forum?’…That’s a bit rich coming from you John?…. Why don’t you look at every article on every subject and count the number of posts from ALL those that ‘haunt the forum?’ I think you’ll find that the biggest ‘Spook’ seems to be yourself.

    • John Tulloch

      • March 9th, 2016 19:20

      Ah, hello again, Robin!

      Since you’ve manifested yourself in this thread, perhaps, you’ll be kind enough to tell us whether this story is true about the SNP spending £178 million on a computer to handle 14,000 CAP payments and then not working and failing to deliver farmers’ payments on time – months late?

      I can’t believe it myself, it sounds terribly far-fetched. You’re very well connected in the SNP so I hope you’ll tell us that it isn’t true?

      • Robin Stevenson

        • March 9th, 2016 21:19

        Hey John

        The ST was having an issue with my posts that were being diverted [for some reason] to another in-box, I did suggest that perhaps you [or one of your chums] had broken into their offices and redirected them into the junk mail box? However they emphatically denied this 🙂

        Yes, another duff IT computer glitch, much the same as the NHS and the Police Scotland one, I guess ANY organisation is at the mercy of the – so called – experts? But I don’t imagine myself blaming ANY government on the competency of the chosen tender? Unless ofc if that company is costing you a fortune and not delivering at all? Changes to anything come at a price, teething problems are that price, and sadly people suffer as a consequence. That said, at least the SNP allocated £200 million in the interim towards CAP payments, and let’s not forget, 50% were already paid and the Scottish Government had up until June 2016 to make sure the rest were too.

        Incidentally, I know you like to bang on about underfunded education in Shetland, so what do you think of the PPI £4 million paid on interest each year?

      • Robin Stevenson

        • March 9th, 2016 22:44

        Oops!..My typo, I meant ‘PFI’, £4 million per year on interest up until 2040, [as far as I remember] which roughly works out at just under a £billion for Anderson high school, signed up by none other than Labour/Lib Dems Government, [dear o dear, that Tavish one, what’s he like?] perhaps you may like to subtract that amount off ALL that ‘under-funding’ that the SNP government regularly get the blame for?

        Oh and don’t forget to knock off the £10 million that the SNP have kindly offered for their 3 way share of the UK’s historic debt?

        I won’t mention the council tax freeze ‘over-funding’ of Scotland’s 32 councils of £170 million [thanks to the SPICE report]…..Oops!..I just did.

  • John Tulloch

    • March 10th, 2016 9:04

    It has been reported elsewhere that the farming CAP payments fiasco has become so bad – only 25 percent of the £400 million of EU money has been distributed by the Scottish government – that Nicola Sturgeon has had to personally intervene with a promise pay £200 million to entitled recipients by the end of April.

    Shetland NFU representative Jim Nicolson is quoted:

    ““We very much welcome [the announcement],” he said. “It’s really something that the NFU has been asking for and we certainly hope that everybody gets the equivalent of 80 per cent of their payments before the end of April.”

    Why wait until April, isn’t Mr Swinney going to preside over another underspend this year?


Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.