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It seems that not a day goes by when I am not contacted by farmers and crofters in my ward with justifiable concerns about single farm payments and the plight of our rural economy.
Unfortunately the bad news just keeps rolling in as the Scottish Government could face a fine of up to £700,000 for the late payment of European subsidies to farmers this year. The penalty, estimated at between £500,000 and £700,000, relates to delays to 2016 Common Agricultural Policy.
The figure is on top of potential financial penalties of around £5 million as a result of late payments in 2015 after delays caused by the introduction of a new £178 million IT system. A total of 90.4 per cent of payments due to farmers were paid by the June deadline, with the European Commission rejecting a request from Scottish Ministers for an extension to the payment window.
Even worse, the Scottish Government could also face separate EC financial penalties, known as disallowance, if weaknesses in the administration and control of CAP payments are identified. A recent assessment from Audit Scotland warned the figure for this could be as high as £60 million.
To add insult to injury, the SNP has announced cuts worth tens of millions of pounds for projects aimed at helping Scotland’s farming communities.
In a recent written statement to the Scottish Parliament, rural affairs secretary Fergus Ewing said he was slashing support for less favourable areas by £40 million, with a further £42 million being removed from climate change schemes.
Along with the SNP’s aforementioned mishandling of hundreds of millions of pounds in Common Agricultural Policy payments due to a botched IT system, this makes for a double hammer blow for our farmers, crofters and the wider economy in rural Scotland.
Most shocking of all is that as part of the revision, the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme will have money reduced from £459 million to £419 million. That’s money which supports businesses in areas of the country which are harder to farm successfully, particularly in remote areas.
Due to a mixture of incompetence and indifference, we in rural Scotland are having our economy starved by an urban, central belt and separatism-obsessed Scottish Government.
We in Kintyre, the Islands and the rest of Argyll and Bute deserve better.
Councillor Alastair Redman, Islay.
Withdraw farm plans
Friends of the Sound of Jura is a community group that objects to Kames Fish Farming Limited’s proposal to site a fish farm at Dounie.
Indeed, we believe nowhere in the Sound of Jura is appropriate for fish farming.
On August 12, Steve Bracken of Marine Harvest was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today.
He said on the programme that Marine Harvest would not establish a new farm unless they had community support, adding: ‘If the community said they’re not in favour of the salmon farm, we wouldn’t try and start one up’.
Dounie is inside the North Knapdale Community Council area. A majority of those on the electoral roll in this ward have signed petitions objecting to the Kames development.
Our community would have to live with this farm. Our community has shown clearly that we are not in favour of it.
We ask Kames to withdraw its proposal.
On behalf of the Friends of the Sound of Jura community group.
No Strone Point action
On the Argyllshire Advertiser Facebook page you recently posed the question concerning accidents at Strone Point, Inveraray: ‘Where does the balance lie between the state of the road and driver responsibility?’
I think that there is responsibility on both sides. Drivers should always drive responsibly, taking into account the nature of the road.
But not all drivers do drive responsibly, or may realise only at the last moment how dangerous a part of the road has become.
The people responsible for the state of the road are called ‘officials’ and in the case of the bend at Strone Point they must surely be aware of the number of fatalities and serious accidents there over many decades. So, if they are aware of the number of accidents there over so many years, why are they not rectifying this?
Three accidents on three successive weekends is not a new state of affairs at Strone Point.
My wife and I lived a few hundred yards from this corner for almost 20 years and lost count of the number of accidents there. It is high time this corner was sorted out and made safe for all drivers.
Niall Iain MacLean, Inveraray.
Support our charities
I am one of 90 armed forces athletes heading out to the Invictus Games in Toronto this weekend to stand proud for my country.
For us, the Invictus Games means more than simply competing for glory – it’s the pinnacle of a long journey of recovery and rehabilitation.
My journey began in 1996 when, in a split second, my life changed forever.
A tractor turned into my path while I was riding my motorbike. The trailer it was towing rolled over my chest and I was left with catastrophic injuries. I was paralysed from the chest down.
I was medically discharged from the RAF and, at my lowest point, the RAF Benevolent Fund stepped in to provide furniture and funding for resettlement training.
As a previously fit and active member of the RAF Regiment, my injuries were devastating. But I found a positive by focusing my recovery around sport and took up hand cycling, indoor rowing and wheelchair rugby.
Again the RAF Benevolent Fund was there for me, this time helping to buy a racing hand cycle which allowed me to race competitively.
So when you support the brave men and women who will compete at this year’s Invictus Games, cheer for all those standing behind us, our families and supporters like the RAF Benevolent Fund and other military charities, without whom this would not be possible.
Luke Delahunty, Invictus Games athlete.