Urgent clarification demanded by NFUS
NFU Scotland has slammed Scottish Government’s latest correspondence with those applying to Scotland’s new CAP schemes as unacceptable.
With just days to go until the SAF deadline of 15 June, a poorly worded email from Scottish Government informed applicants that the full burden of responsibility on greening compliance lay with them and outlined the threat of penalties if non-compliance was identified.
For the 12,000 farmers who have already successfully completed their SAF application online – including verification that the application meets greening requirements – the email has sparked confusion and consternation. Without clarification, many applicants will now feel obliged to go back into the system to re-check claims, running the risk of overloading the fragile and flawed online system as the deadline approaches. NFU Scotland has called for Scottish Government to apologise for the confusion caused and provide clarification within the next 24 hours.
The Union has also reiterated that it will stand by any member unduly penalised as a direct result of flaws within the online application system. That issue was raised when NFU Scotland gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs committee on the CAP application process this week and was recognised when MSPs wrote to Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead following the meeting.
NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie said: “Last night’s poorly-worded email from Scottish Government has caused confusion and consternation amongst SAF applicants, with many feeling forced to go back into the system to re-check successfully submitted claims because of the fears that they could be subjected to penalties on their support claims due to greening errors.
“That is unacceptable. Applicants deserve an apology and clarification within the next 24 hours – not least because Scottish Government, by its latest actions, runs the risk of overloading an already over-burdened system just days before the 15 June deadline.
“The creaking and flawed online application system, while improving, has seen changes made on an almost daily basis. While encouraging all applicants to use the online system, those who have had applications successfully submitted must not lose out because Scottish Government has altered the system or changed the rules.
“These very points were discussed in full at the Rural Affairs Committee in Holyrood on Wednesday and accepted by MSPs when they subsequently wrote to Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead on the flawed CAP application process.
“If any of our members find themselves in the position of facing penalties that have arisen as a direct result of problems in the Scottish Government’s online system, we give them our categorical assurance that we will support them through the appeals process.”