Fertiliser fears played down

rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead last night dismissed as “unfounded” concerns that Scottish farmers would not be allowed to spread fertiliser on sloping ground, writes Andrew Arbuckle.

Last week, the National Farmers’ Union of Scotland expressed concern over possible changes to legislation designed to reduce pollution in the country’s water courses. One of these was that farmers would be unable to use fertiliser on sloping ground, effectively rendering that land non-productive. This was followed by politicians echoing that concern and when the consultation on the changes closed at the end of last week, some 81 responses had been filed.

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Lochhead claimed the proposed amendments to the legislation would simply bring these rules into line with current common agricultural policy cross-compliance regulations.

“These rules are about preventing nitrogen from fertilisers entering water and harming our environment,” he said. “These should not have a significant impact on many farmers, particularly as there is already a requirement for a fertiliser-free buffer zone around any water course.”

Senior government officials will meet NFUS representatives today to discuss the issue.