Bank Debts Among Scottish Farmers at Highest Levels on Record
September 14, 2016
Debts owed to banks by Scottish farmers are at higher levels than have ever been recorded before and increased sharply last year.
According to official figures, as much as £2.2 billion was owed to banks by Scottish farmers during the year to the end of May 2016, with the figures having risen by around £177 million during the prior 12-month period.
Records of what debts are owed by farmers around the country first started being kept in 1972, with Scotland’s Chief Statistician behind the latest official data on the subject.
In addition to the several billion pounds collectively owed to banks, Scottish farmers are understood to have close to £1.4 billion worth of hire purchase liabilities, lease arrangements and debts to other individuals or service providers outstanding.
The Scottish government has been accused of failing to properly support agricultural operators around the country in recent years and of letting them down from a financial perspective.
A particular problem for the government and for Scottish farmers in recent years has been the difficulties in properly rolling out a new IT system designed to distribute funds allocated in line with Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Those issues resulted in thousands of farmers being left short of money at a time when their finances were already being squeezed.
“The rural economy was starved of hundreds of thousands of pounds thanks to its [the Scottish government’s] mismanagement of vital CAP payments,” said Peter Chapman, a rural affairs spokesperson for the Conservative Party.
“Now we are seeing record debt levels, and it paints a very grim picture for the agricultural sector.”
Mike Rumbles of the Liberal Democrat Party said: “It is no surprise that farmers have been forced to increase borrowing. The shambles over CAP payments means it would have been a surprise if debt had not spiked.
“Hundreds of farmers are even now yet to receive their farm payments and there are huge concerns within the sector over what will happen next year, too.”
The Scottish Government has suggested that rising debts among Scottish farmers is broadly in line with trends seen throughout the UK, with debt levels among agricultural operators nationwide having significantly increased since the beginning of the decade.
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