‘Scotland’s environmental needs deserve special EU support’

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Scotland’s vast tracts of varied landscapes must be allowed to count as environmental focus areas under the new common agricultural policy (CAP), according to NFU Scotland

Union president Nigel Miller made the call yesterday at the Highland show following a meeting with the EU’s environment commissioner, Janez Potocnik.

However, the commissioner did not commit to Miller’s request, citing his scepticism of flexibility in CAP rules being used as a mask to continue the status quo.

Potocnik did acknowledge Scotland’s excellent track record on the environment, saying that the country’s work in this area was an EU exemplar.

Miller regretted the commissioner’s unwillingness to recognise the vast tracts of Scottish land which are environmentally high quality but had limited productive potential.

“This is highly frustrating as it jeopardises crucial farming businesses in these areas and puts pressure on Scotland’s productive areas, which are marginal compared to other EU member states,” he said.

“He is clearly guided by the global picture: a growing population; the need to protect our finite natural resources; the drive of technology, and unnecessary waste in the production and consumption of food.”

l With heightening optimism over a conclusion next week on reform of the CAP, a leading banker yesterday suggested ending speculation over future EU support measures would, in itself, be a boost for businesses.

Speaking at the Highland Show, David Hannon, head of agribusiness at Clydesdale Bank, said: “Being able to put firm figures in the budget is vital for good business planning.

“Basing calculations and commitments on known EU support parameters for the next five, maybe even ten, years will give farmers the opportunity to once again start setting some fresh development goals.”

Hannon also looked back and described the end of last year and the early months of 2013 as extremely challenging for many farm businesses.

“My greatest confidence in looking forward, however, is that we’ve worked closely with businesses in similarly severe conditions in the past and are totally committed to supporting existing customers as strongly and resolutely as possible in their present rebuilding processes.

l Science and innovation remain central to industry sustainability in Scotland, according to Scotland’s minister for the environment and climate change

Paul Wheelhouse claimed that Scotland continued to lead the way through its research and range of work and declared that Scotland’s resources had “never been more important”.

He added Scotland was home to some of the world’s top research institutes that were developing initiatives to improve the efficiency and sustainability of Scottish farming.

“These initiatives make Scotland the world leader in sustainable farming.”

After listening to the minister, Jim McLaren, chairman of Quality Meat Scotland, responded: “It is vital that the Scottish industry remains on the front foot in terms of increasing the uptake of proven technical and other solutions to improve production efficiency.

“The partnership QMS has with the Scottish Government is a vital one.”

l The chief executive of RSABI, Scotland’s leading rural charity, Dr Maurice Hankey, has decided to move on.

During his seven-year tenure, Hankey has been instrumental in improving the charity’s administration. He was also behind the launch in 2010 of the GATEPOST Listening Service.

RSABI chairman John Kinnaird,said: “The trustees are most grateful to Dr Hankey for his hard work and dedication to the charity and wish him well in the future.”

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