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7 March 2007

Stevenson & Salmond Welcome NFUS Support for Subsidy Appeals Reform

Banff & Buchan Parliamentarians Alex Salmond MP and Stewart Stevenson MSP have welcomed the statement from newly-elected NFUS President Jim McLaren on subsidy appeals reform.

It was after meeting with NFUS members at New Deer Agricultural Show last summer that Mr Salmond pledged to introduce a truly independent panel to deal with appeals to SEERAD as part of an SNP administration in Holyrood after May’s elections.

Commenting, Mr Salmond said:

“Jim McLaren is absolutely right when he says that a culture change in the system is needed. When I worked in DAFS [the then Department of Agriculture & Fisheries for Scotland], the prevailing attitude was one of 'what can we do to help move Scottish agriculture forward'. That seems to have been lost in the intervening years and we need to get that back.

“It was clear to me from talking to NFUS members at New Deer Show that the appeals system was just one area where action was needed to reform the system and make it more ‘user friendly’ and I am delighted that Jim has identified this as an area for action in his first week in office.

“I met Jim at Turriff Show when he was Vice-President and could see that Scottish farming had a radical thinker working on its behalf. I wish him all the best in his term of office as NFUS President.”

Stewart Stevenson MSP added:

“Parliamentary answers I received recently revealed that nearly 700 Single Farm Payment claimants in 2005 and 2006 had penalties totalling over £1¼ million applied to their claims due to errors found within the completed forms.

“In the context of overall number of claimants, this is not a large number but it is still far too high and I believe more could be done to address this at an earlier stage in the process.

“Failing that however, an independent appeals panel is crucial to ensure fairness and transparency.”

Note: In an article in Banff & Buchan SNP’s Autumn 2006 edition of Farming First, Alex Salmond pledged to introduce an independent appeals panel if the SNP forms the Government after May 3rd.

Mr Salmond made the commitment after meeting with farmers at New Deer Show who outlined to him the inherent unfairness of the current situation. Mr Salmond said at that time:

“I am fighting to become Scotland’s First Minister after next May’s elections so that Scotland’s vital industries can get the support from Government they deserve. An SNP administration in Edinburgh will reform the appeals procedure so that SEERAD officials are not sitting in judgment on decisions made by their colleagues. The appeals process will be transparent and totally independent.”

Stewart Stevenson
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