Rennie calls for new rural affairs secretary after SNP CAP payments disaster

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said there is no way that the First Minister can keep Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead in his post following repeated delays to vital EU payments.

Farmers and crofters have been hit by extended delays to Common Agricultural Policy payments as a result of the failure of a Scottish Government IT system. Mr Lochhead was informed of potential problems with the £178m IT system before the referendum but waited for months before warning farmers that payments could be delayed.

It also emerged during the election campaign that farmers receiving support from an emergency Scottish Government scheme could face punitive interest charges.

Willie said:

Richard Lochhead knew about potential problems with the new IT system before the referendum but told farmers nothing until the middle of last year. He left farmers struggling for months before introducing an emergency payments scheme that could see businesses clobbered with unfair interest charges as a result of the government’s incompetence.

There are only so many mistakes a Minister can make before their position becomes untenable. Richard Lochhead is now beyond that point. There is no way that the First Minister can keep him in his post and he should be replaced. It is time that we got a Rural Affairs Secretary who will deliver for farmers and crofters.

Of course, replacing Lochhead on its own isn’t enough. The SNP need to sort this out. Upsetting the people who produce our food is never a good thing.

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