ScotGov must address gold-plated greening

NFU Scotland has seized the initiative on making necessary changes to gold-plated greening rules in Scotland following the Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead’s offer of revisiting existing arrangements.

While addressing a seminar at AgriScot last Wednesday (18 November), Mr Lochhead was challenged robustly by several members of the audience over elements of the new greening requirements that have been gold-plated by Scottish Government.

NFU Scotland believes that decisions and rules which go above and beyond the EU standard greening requirements have left Scottish agriculture at a competitive disadvantage. The Union has raised its concerns regarding greening with both Richard Lochhead and his officials on numerous occasions throughout the introduction of the new CAP rules.

In response to the Cabinet Secretary indicating that he was willing to look again at these measures, the Union has wasted no time in writing to Mr Lochhead and his officials, including a request to meet again on the matter. Looking at requirements around Ecological Focus Areas (EFA) – a necessary element of greening rules > the Union has used its letter to the Cabinet Secretary to point to Scotland-only rules around Nitrogen Fixing Crops (NFCs), field margins, green cover, conversion factors, buffer strips, hedges, fallow and EFA options.

NFU Scotland President, Allan Bowie said: “There are a number of specific gold-plated greening requirements for Scottish farmers that are in Richard Lochhead’s gift to revise. Changing these could make a real difference to the competitiveness of our farmers, but also make life considerably easier for those members of Scottish Government staff who have to enforce the overly-complicated greening rules.

“Decisive action by the Cabinet Secretary on these greening matters is needed if Scottish Government claims over its commitment to simplification of rules are to be seen as something more than just lip service. NFUS provided a long list of greening concerns to Scottish Government in spring of this year to feed into the European discussions led by Commissioner Hogan on greening and simplification to which we have had little or no feedback.”

“While Commissioner Hogan’s review of greening next year is unlikely to bring forward changes until 2017, the Scottish Government must let the farming industry know what greening simplification measures it is seeking in Europe. We need to know if they are on our side or if we are pushing ahead by ourselves with the EU. Before then, there is clearly much that can be done by Richard Lochhead to simplify and improve the current implementation of greening in Scotland without any changes being needed in Europe. Only by addressing Scottish Government gold-plating can we ensure a level competitive footing with our competitors.”

“Frustration and anger within our membership around greening continue to build. That is why the Cabinet Secretary’s offer to revisit the matter is so important and we now need action to deliver change rather than just words.”

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