There are serious questions for the Scottish Executive to answer over plans
to burden farmers in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) with further regulation,
according to NFU Scotland. Speaking after the last of five meetings on the
issue, held last night in Dumfries, NFUS President John Kinnaird has challenged
the authorities to prove that there is a scientific basis for the new rules.
NFUS has hosted meetings in Dumfries, Dundee, Inverurie, Kinross,
and Lauder so its members could press Scottish Executive and
SEPA officials on new proposed NVZ restrictions, which are expected
to be put out for official consultation shortly. The proposals
mainly surround restrictions on when farmers can spread manure
or fertiliser and the quantity that can be applied to fields.
In the absence of hard scientific justification, NFUS has stressed
that these latest proposed rules are symptomatic of an ever-increasing
burden of regulation which is adding unnecessary cost and delivering
little, if any, public benefit. Last month, NFUS called for an
overhaul of the UK and Scottish system for implementing EU legislation
and has proposed a new model to ensure that no new restrictions
can be imposed without clear evidence of benefits.
NFUS President John Kinnaird said:
"Personally, I believe the NVZ designations we've had in
the past are as much about appeasing Brussels as they are about
delivering environmental benefit.
"The 'regulate first, ask questions later' approach of
government and its authorities is hammering farms and other rural
businesses. Hot on the heels of ridiculous water abstraction
proposals, we have new proposed restrictions in NVZs. If that
wasn't bad enough, we have one Government department banning
the use of tallow as a green fuel whilst another tries to encourage
renewables and we have to spend time convincing authorities that
field stones are not commercial waste. It is absurd.
"Unless we see concrete proof that regulations are justifiable
and will deliver benefit, we will not accept them. At the moment,
I have not heard any compelling evidence out of our NVZ meetings
that the latest proposed restrictions are based on sound science.
"Government and its authorities have to get their act together.
We are being constructive on this issue by proposing a new model
which will bring common sense back into the regulatory process.
We have raised this with Jim Wallace MSP as part of his own inquiry
into over-regulation and we will be meeting the Cabinet Office
inquiry team next week which is looking into the same subject.
"The farming industry is not saying no to taking steps
to protect the environment, but we are saying a very clear no
to rules which are dressed up in those terms, but do nothing
except raise revenue and harm farm sustainability."
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