Single Farm Payment Scheme (Overdeclaration of Eligible Land)

Scottish Executive Question Time — Rural Affairs and the Environment – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 11th November 2010.

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Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative 2:15 pm, 11th November 2010

To ask the Scottish Executive what the financial implications are for it and for farmers as a result of the overdeclaration of eligible land that was identified in the European Union audit of the 2006 single farm payment scheme. (S3O-11866)

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

The European Commission audit of 2006 expenditure on the single farm payment scheme has still to be drawn to a final conclusion, so it is too soon to assess the overall financial impact on the Scottish Government and our farmers. However, my officials are working assiduously to minimise any possible impact on the farming community from the audit of the payments and processes that were directed by the previous coalition Government.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

I understand that the Scottish Government is providing our farmers with further details of what land is eligible and what land is ineligible for the single farm payment, and that it is encouraging them, where appropriate, to reassess their claimed areas. Will that have any implications for the timing of this year's payment or for the amount that is paid out from December?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

The member highlights the Scottish Government's impressive track record on making single farm payments on time from 1 December onwards. I have tasked our rural payments and inspections directorate to pay at least 70 per cent of eligible claims by 1 December. We are proud of that track record and want to stick to it this year, as we have done in previous years.

The member makes a good point about the resources that are required to deal with all the common agricultural policy regulations and with the payments. I am convinced that we have applied enough resources to that to ensure that we can stick to our good timetable for making single farm payments.