Building a real working relationship with farmers will remain a priority issue with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) despite cuts to its budget, the organisation’s new chief executive promised yesterday.
Speaking at the Farming Scotland conference in Carnoustie, Terry A’Hearn – who took over the top job at Sepa last year – gave a commitment that, despite a 7 per cent reduction in the agency’s budget, he would ensure that there was no reduction in the resources put into working with farmers and other land managers.
He said that working with the farming industry was the best approach – and it would be taken on all fronts, whether looking at the topical subject of flood prevention and control where farmers had a huge amount of practical knowledge and experience, or dealing with diffuse pollution issues.
“While we have a statutory role to play in protecting the environment, we also need to have an understanding of the wider social and economic issues which come into play.”
“Our staff are now specifically trained to be able to engage with land managers – and many of them now come from a farming background,” said A’Hearn.
“Rather than coming round with a big stick we now tend to discuss issues and try to help the farmer find a solution by explaining any problems in a way that enables them to make informed decisions which will improve both the environment and the business as a whole.”