I am backing George Lyon, Lib Dem MEP for Scotland, in his criticism of the Scottish Government for threatening farmers with draconian penalties for breaching rules on land covered by whin and bracken.
Irish farmers have confirmed that the Irish Government will not be introducing tougher penalties for breaches of eligibility criteria. This comes after it was revealed last week that England’s penalty regime is much fairer and proportionate than the one used in Scotland.
Commenting, George said,
“For the last five years, the Scottish Government’s own guidelines have said nothing about land covered with bracken and whin being ineligible for support payments.”
“Farmers are rightly angry that the Government has now changed its mind and is threatening to impose draconian penalties on any farmers who have breached what are effectively the new rules on eligible acres.
“The Scottish Government has made a hash of this from the beginning. First the Minister, Richard Lochhead, failed to own up to the fact their guidance had been wrong and to compound the problem he failed to consult with the industry before changing the rules on eligibility.
Having visited many farmers in the region over the last year, it is clear that economic conditions are causing major concern. The SNP Government should therefore be supporting our farmers, not threatening them with severe penalties as a result of Richard Lochhead’s mistakes.
Yet again the SNP are making decisions centred in Edinburgh, without consulting farmers or considering the severe impact on farmers in Angus, Mearns and the North East. Local SNP representatives should join the Liberal Democrats to stand up for the region’s farmers.