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Farm Payments (Lothian)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 4th September 2019.

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Photo of Jeremy Balfour Jeremy Balfour Conservative

8. To ask the Scottish Government how many farm businesses in the Lothian region are still to receive 2016-17 and 2017-18 common agricultural policy basic and pillar 2 payments. (S5O-03480)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

For the common agricultural policy basic payment scheme, there are no payments outstanding for scheme years 2016 and 2017, and seven businesses are due payment for 2018. For pillar 2, two businesses are due payment for 2016, four for 2017 and 24 for 2018. We continue to work with customers to pay out the remaining claims in line with the scheme regulations.

Photo of Jeremy Balfour Jeremy Balfour Conservative

Can the cabinet secretary confirm absolutely that these payments will be made to all farm businesses by the end of this year? Yes or no.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I am sorry. I did not quite catch whether Jeremy Balfour asked whether “all beef payments” will be made.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

The member should understand that we are dealing with 17,000 or 18,000 claims for pillar 1 payments. I said in my answer to him that in 2016 and 2017, the outstanding number is zero. In other words, our record is 100 per cent for those two years, which is a fair result—and not one that I ever achieved in an examination, members will not be surprised to hear. Perhaps Mr Balfour did; I do not know.

I can also say that with such payments, there is always a tail; there are always very complicated cases that involve a great deal of time and effort. I have been overseeing and double-checking some of that work, because we are determined to make all payments that are due to farmers, crofters and land managers in Scotland as quickly as possible.

Frankly, everyone but the Scottish Tories recognises our record in improvement over the last three years.

Photo of Colin Beattie Colin Beattie Scottish National Party

What arrangements have been made by other UK Administrations to make sure that farmers and crofters get their basic payments ahead of a no-deal Brexit?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

As yet, I am not aware that any other UK Administration is offering a loan scheme or advance payments to farm businesses. Here in Scotland, I have been determined to give as much support and certainty as possible, ahead of a potential no-deal Brexit. That is why we are offering advance loan payments that are worth up to 95 per cent of anticipated 2019 CAP BPS and breeding payments. We have issued 16,600 loan offers that are worth almost £395 million to the rural economy. We will start payments in early October. I am pleased to report that, as at today, 9,500 farmers and crofters have returned their loan acceptances.

I know the officials who are administering the payments. They are doing a grand job for Scotland. If our colleagues in England would like to learn how to do it, I am happy to arrange for our officials to offer—at a cost, of course, which we will negotiate—to administer the scheme. I am quite serious. With the risk of a no-deal Brexit, I am astonished that our colleagues in England have not seen fit to make sure that there will be some money in the bank accounts of their farmers down south, because of the challenges that they, too, would face. That is not a fate that I wish on any farmers in the UK.