But the ambitious proposal to establish a single body from those agencies such as Scottish Natural Heritage, the Crofting Commission and the Forestry Commission Scotland has been abandoned, the author of the Doing Better report, Brian Pack admitted yesterday.
Speaking from the Turriff Show, Pack was sure the establishment of an overarching advisory board would, with ministerial backing, be capable of reducing the administrative burden and duplication in the industry and it would achieve that aim through working with the various regulatory bodies.
Achieving a single body could have been “messy” he said, with lengthy time delays in amalgamation. There was also, he admitted, no support for the single body during the consultation period.
“The advisory board is a more realistic way of driving change,” he added stating the reform he wanted to see was “strategic operational alignment”, which he helpfully translated as farmers getting a single consistent message.
“It is the implementation of the recommendations that will improve the lot of farmers, land managers and regulators – not producing a report.”
Pack envisaged that the advisory board would be chaired by an independent person and would report to the Scottish Government.
Receiving the report on behalf of the Scottish Government, rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said he agreed that there was a great deal of merit in the regulatory bodies having an integrated approach and the overarching advisory board would be the key to driving this recommendation forward and helping implement the other 60 recommendations in the Doing Better report.
He has asked his officials to look into how and when establishing the new advisory board could best be done, taking into account current priorities of common agricultural policy implementation and the Futures Programme.
Lochhead claimed the Scottish Government was already taking steps to minimise the bureaucratic burden for farmers – such as the improved online service being developed to make the new CAP as accessible as possible, but it was clear more needed to be done.
Also attending Turriff Show, which this year is celebrating its 150th anniversary, National Farmers Union of Scotland president Nigel Miller described the red tape announcement as the “starting gun having been fired. Now the real work must begin if we are to quickly strip away some of the unnecessary red tape that holds our industry back.
“The report and its recommendations reflect the challenges faced on farm; it maps out an agenda for change and a move away from an increasingly rigid culture of enforcement, which has become detached from the real aims and outcomes of regulation.”
David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, reckoned his members needed to be freed up rather than held back by red tape and bureaucracy and they would widely welcome the report.