Meeting with Lochhead Does Not Allay Crofters Fears

The Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) was not satisfied by the explanations and solutions offered by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead, at a stakeholder meeting where he attempted to outline the background and the actions to cope with the apparent meltdown of the agricultural payments system.

Speaking for the SCF agriculture policy working-group, Brendan O’Hanrahan said;
“The meeting was long over-due. Crofters are experiencing real hardship due to cash flow problems and credit drying up. The lack of information has exacerbated the problem, as this has meant many crofters have no idea how long they’re going to have to hang in there for.


Mr O’Hanrahan continued,
“Crofters may have no monopoly on such hardship, but a high proportion of them survive on a very thin resource base, and so can be especially vulnerable to these kinds of cash flow delays. The uncertainty makes matters worse, and our feedback suggests that only a tiny percentage of crofters have received ‘Illustration of Entitlement’ letters.

“We are worried about the possibility that, because so many crofters have ground in more than one region, often as a mix of region 1 inbye and region 3 hill ground, they may be disproportionately affected by delays associated with processing more complex cases. Unfortunately Mr Lochhead was not yet able to allay our fears on this.

“We were given figures for national rates of paying the first instalment, but again, from our surveys of crofters, we are concerned that the proportion of crofters receiving such payments may in fact be significantly lower than these national rates. The Cabinet Secretary has however promised to provide more detailed information soon on any regional differences that there might be in processing payments.

“While we appreciate the efforts now being made to allocate extra resources to deal with the backlog, we have to ask why this scale of a problem was not anticipated so that the emergency measures now in place could have been deployed much earlier.

Mr O’Hanrahan concluded;
“We do appreciate the efforts of government local office staff, who are having to grapple with the major burden of being the frontline between the central system and the crofters and farmers desperate for answers”.

Scottish Crofting Federation

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