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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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Wednesday, 5 November 2008

APPEALS REVIEW PROGRESS GETS NFUS WELCOME

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the recommendations of the independent review into agriculture subsidy appeals which has called for has called for an abolition of the current three-tier mechanism and its replacement with an independent Appeals Agency.

The independent review is a direct result of a commitment given by local MP Alex Salmond at a meeting with local farmers at the 2006 New Deer Show that if the SNP won the 2007 election he would reform the appeals system which had been a cause of great concern among the farming community. The SNP's election manifesto contained the following commitment:

"…we will introduce a truly independent appeals panel in response to the existing system's shortcomings. SEERAD officials should not sit in judgement on decisions made by colleagues".

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

"I am delighted by the progress made and particularly pleased that John Kinnaird, with his depth of knowledge of the system and its shortcomings, agreed to head-up the review.

"This is yet another example of the fresh approach of the new SNP Government and one which I am sure will be welcomed by North-east farmers."

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford added:

"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. The review is therefore absolutely right to have focussed in on the relationship between farmers and the department, with officials unfortunately being viewed as enforcers of rules rather than being there to offer help and advice.

"The positive relationship which once existed can and indeed must be rebuilt and positive assistance offered to claimants where necessary."

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