Farmers muck in with councils to clear snow

FARMERS have been helping local authorities clear snow from roads, though their offers of equipment have sometimes been snubbed.

Borders Machinery Ring – one of nine farmer/contractor collectives which pool their plant in Scotland –

had 25 tractors and diggers working for the council over the past week.

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Yesterday BMR manager Michael Bayne said vehicles were helping remove snow from streets in towns across the region, having helped reopen country roads.

At first the offer of help from BMR had been turned down by the local authority but, after more heavy snowfall last week, the council reviewed its decision.

However, offers to local authorities around the Tay Forth Machinery Ring area, based in Milnathort, Kinross-shire, have met with a negative response and a similar offer to councils covered by Ringlink in the North-east was also turned down.

Tay Forth Ring manager Bruce Hamilton said he was surprised at the local authorities' response.

He told of one farmer member in Glenfarg, Perthshire, who had a modern snow plough which had not turned a wheel on the public highway after the local authority insisted it was "coping".

Rings have also been busy helping out with the shortage of fuel in country areas. Hamilton said members had been using bowsers to get around the problem of fuel tankers not being able to negotiate farm roads and a similar system has been operated by Ringlink.

Graham Bruce, from Ringlink, welcomed the Scottish Government derogation on fuel tanker drivers' hours as this would reduce the delays in deliveries. In some areas, customers have been waiting up to 14 days for fuel.

The derogation also applies to deliveries of animal feed where problems have been experienced in accessing farm roads.

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In addition to dealing with the issue of drivers' hours, NFU Scotland yesterday discussed with the Scottish Government other problems brought about by the cold weather.

The government confirmed that it would not be imposing penalties on farmers forced to spread slurry on frozen ground and the NFUS has also had confirmation from Brussels that farmers within nitrate vulnerable zones can spread before the end of this week provided they have no alternatives and provided they have already registered their lack of storage facilities.

Outwith NVZs, the NFUS said the Scottish Environment Protection Agency was taking a helpful pragmatic approach to the problems faced by farmers.

The NFUS also revealed there may also be a derogation on the burying of fallen stock if the weather does not improve in the near future. The Scottish Government is currently assessing the problem.