NFU Scotland has received confirmation from Rural Development
Minister Ross Finnie that the deadline by which farmers can register
to abstract water at a lower charge will be extended from 31
March to 30 September. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency
had been proposing to increase the registration charge for farmers
wishing to abstract water from £134 before 31 March to
nearly £3000 thereafter.
However, despite being only 10 days from the original application
deadline, there has been absolutely no official information to
farmers about this change of deadline or even what the details
of the new Water Environment Charging Scheme are. There has been
a public consultation on the proposed scheme but no announcement
on its outcome and no confirmation that the proposals that were
amended mid-consultation have been agreed.
NFUS is calling for urgent clarification from the Scottish Executive
on the details of the new scheme
NFUS Vice President Jim McLaren said:
“The handling of this whole situation has been a shambles.
Farmers around the country are working on the presumption they
have only 10 days left to register at the reduced rate even though
they have no idea of the details of the scheme.
“We have now been told the original deadline will be extended
to 30 September. That will give farmers more time, and crucially
give time for the Executive or SEPA to announce what farmers
are being told they have to register for. However, whilst this
extension gives some relief, we now hear unofficially that the
reduced rate will rise from £134 to £214. That is
not a huge amount of money, but I would like to know how SEPA
can justify that rise.
“There are a host of questions that need answered immediately.
What exactly are the details of the new scheme? SEPA changed
them half way through the consultation but there has been no
word on the outcome of that consultation. Will SEPA also be asking
farmers to pay the annual subsistence charge this year? If the
registration period is extended until 30 September after the
summer irrigation period, I don’t how it can justify charging
farmers for the costs of inspections that won’t take place
because farmers haven’t registered? Also, will new application
forms be issued that reflect the new rules?
“We need urgent clarification from the Executive on all
these points immediately.”
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