Union fury over government’s latest nitrate control proposals

Proposed changes by the Scottish Government to its nitrates action programme yesterday produced a feisty reaction from NFU Scotland, which claimed that any environmental gain would be minimal compared to the extent to which the proposals would hamper farming operations on most of Scotland’s most productive farmland.

The union took particular exception to an extension of the “closed” period on heavier soils during which time slurry or other forms of farmyard manure is not allowed to be spread.

It also opposed another proposed change involving the method of calculating available soil nitrogen which it claimed would also reduce the productivity of the land.

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To back its claims, the union said that the recommended changes ran counter to the recommendations of the government’s own environmental advisory and regulatory body, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

Union vice-president Allan Bowie, who farms in a designated nitrate vulnerable zone in Fife, said farmers had no problem in applying slurries and manures in a way that minimised environmental risk nor in adhering to the principles of a nitrates action plan.

“However,” he said, “rules must be science-based and strike a balance with the practical and financial realities.”

He added that the union would fight the proposals and had already gone back to government to reiterate opposition to the proposals and would lobby MSPs.