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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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"NEW DEER PLEDGE" TO FARMERS BEARS FRUIT

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

APPEALS REVIEW RECOMMENDATIONS ACCEPTED BY LOCHHEAD

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed the announcement by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead that he has accepted sixteen of the seventeen recommendations made by a review team led by former NFU President John Kinnaird, including the principle of an independent appeals procedure.

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".

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford said:

"This is an excellent example of the SNP acting on the concerns expressed by farmers and following-through on our commitment made at the last election. John Kinnaird is highly respected across the industry and both he and his team have done an excellent job with their review.

"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."

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson added::

"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."

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