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Hume and Lyon press for answers on EU fine

November 8, 2011 4:12 PM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Jim Hume MSP, Scottish Liberal Democrat Rural Affairs spokesperson, has called on Richard Lochhead to explain to MSPs why the details of future payment of fines owed to the European Commission were given to the press before Parliament.

Jim Hume MSPJim Hume MSPLast week it was revealed that the Scottish Government is to pay £30million to European authorities in this financial year as part of the £100 million owed after misinterpretation on land eligibility rules.

It is convention that Minsters tell MSPs in a written or oral statement before releasing information to the press but that convention was not followed by the Cabinet Secretary last week.

Commenting, Mr Hume said:

"After asking parliamentary questions for months, been refused answers to freedom of information requests I have lodged and meeting nothing but a wall of silence, last week the Cabinet Secretary allowed this information to be released to the press before MSPs had a chance to scrutinise the detail.

"Richard Locchead should come to Parliament at the earliest possible opportunity to explain why the long standing convention of parliament before press was broken.

"Perhaps then he can also answer some outstanding questions like when exactly did he know Scotland was liable for such a fine? After months of silence, farmers will find it difficult to trust the Government again if it was a case of 'stay quiet and hope for the best'.

George Lyon MEPGeorge Lyon MEPGeorge Lyon MEP, who has pressed the SNP government for answers for the last year, added:

"Nearly 12 months ago I raised my concerns about the threat of a £100 million fine and the Minister accused me of scaremongering, yet at the very same time he was writing cheques to pay the first £50 million of fines to Europe.

"It is time for the Minister to come clean and tell farmers what went wrong. What actions is the Government taking to sort out the problems? What impact will these will have on farmers such as even tougher inspections? What the total fine is likely to be and which budgets will be cut to pay the next set of fines this year?

"The industry needs straight answers to these simple questions."