SNP MSP for the South of Scotland Dr Aileen McLeod today (Thursday) raised the issue of compensation for Dumfries & Galloway Council following the emergency response to the severe weather in March during General Questions in Holyrood.
The move followed the decision by the Scottish Government that the Council’s application for assistance under the Bellwin Scheme was not eligible.
Commenting after Question Time today, Dr McLeod said:
“I received a very positive response from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice today – there is clearly no lack of willingness on the part of the Scottish Government to assist the region. It was simply unfortunate that the Council’s application to the Bellwin Scheme did not meet the criteria.
“The answer I received today made it clear that the Scottish Government will look at other ways of assisting the Council to help meet the costs of its emergency response.
“In addition to that, the Government has already made payments totalling £730,000 in payments to farmers who lost stock as a result of the weather and more than half of that has gone to farmers in Dumfries & Galloway.
“Contrary to recent comments from some of my local political colleagues the Scottish Government clearly is committed to helping the region with the costs of the spring snows.”
Notes to Editors:
The transcript of Dr McLeod’s question and the Cabinet Secretary’s answer is below:
Aileen McLeod (South Scotland) (SNP): The cabinet secretary will be aware that Dumfries and Galloway Council’s application for support under the Bellwin scheme to help it to meet the costs of the severe weather in March as an emergency was deemed to be ineligible under the scheme’s rules. In that instance, both the threshold for assistance and the criteria were against the council, which nevertheless accumulated considerable costs as a result of the weather.
Will the cabinet secretary look at what may still be done to support Dumfries and Galloway Council through other methods?
Kenny MacAskill: I have no doubt that my colleague the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth will be happy to do that. The Scottish Government activated the Bellwin scheme following the severe snow storms in March. The claim that Dumfries and Galloway Council submitted was considered fully but deemed to be ineligible as it fell within the 0.2 per cent threshold that local authorities maintain in their annual budgets to deal with unforeseen emergencies.
I appreciate that the extreme weather had a financial impact in the area, and additional support is being provided. For example, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment announced last week that more than £730,000 in fallen stock payments has now reached the bank accounts of more than 4,000 farmers throughout Scotland. More than half of those funds have gone to farmers in south-west Scotland.
We are happy to consider further assistance through existing available funding streams if an application meets the criteria.