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Ministers face fine on farming payments as deadline extension gets rejected

The Scottish Government made 90.4% of European subsidy payments by the deadline Photo: PA

The Scottish Government faces being fined for not making farm subsidy payments on time after European Commission (EC) bosses refused to extend the deadline for ministers.

Farm subsidy payments are paid to farmers and agribusinesses to support their income.

Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing, confirmed in a written answer to Holyrood that the EC had indicated "it does not propose to offer an extension" for the payments, made as part of Europe's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Mr Ewing has now called on the commission to reconsider and "keep open the possibility of an extension".

He says the "precise amount of any late payment penalties" the Scottish Government could have to pay would not be known for "many months".

However, Liberal Democrat rural affairs spokesman Mike Rumbles said the bill could be as much as £60million:

The fault here lies entirely with the Scottish Government and its colossal mismanagement of these payments which has left the country facing up to £60 million in fines for late payment.

Farmers have been left without the vital funds owed to them and the Cabinet Secretary has admitted that he doesn't even know if the system will be fixed in time for next year's payments.

That is woeful. The Cabinet Secretary has been under fire for months. This news doesn't help his credibility, or that of the SNP government, one iota."

– Mike Rumbles, Liberal Democrat

The Scottish Government made 90.4% of European subsidy payments due to farmers by the deadline of midnight on Friday, June 30 - falling short of the target of 95%.

It was the second year in a row ministers were forced to ask the EC for an extension to the deadline after delays were caused by the introduction of a £178 million IT system to administer the payments.

The Scottish Government expected all eligible CAP pillar one payments would be made by the end of August 2017.