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19 January 2007

SNP Parliamentarians Meet With NFUS On Current Concerns

Scottish National Party MPs and MSPs for the North-east today (Friday) attended a meeting with NFU Scotland President John Kinnaird and local farmers to discuss concerns about proposed changes to Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) regulations and new Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (IPPC) rules which will affect pig and poultry farmers.

Today’s meeting took place at the Thainstone Centre, near Inverurie. Representing the SNP were Party Leader Alex Salmond MP, Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson, Maureen Watt, MSP for the North-east Region, and Aberdeen North’s Brian Adam.

SNP representatives had previously raised the issue of IPPC charges with Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie when he visited Banffshire recently at the request of local MSP Stewart Stevenson. Mr Stevenson in particular has been a vocal critic of environment agency SEPA’s stance on the charges being levied on farmers in Scotland for IPPC registration, which are several hundred pounds more than in England and Wales.

Speaking from Thainstone after the meeting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This was a very useful meeting for all who attended and underlines the importance of these issues to the agriculture industry in the North-east.

“On the issue of NVZs, we have yet to see the evidence that justifies further restrictions on the spreading of manure and fertiliser. Indeed, the indications are that the measures the industry has been taking to date have had the desired effect. Yet the Government is proposing further ‘closed periods’ and a reduction in the Nitrate loading limit.

“We need common-sense on this issue and we need to see the science on which the Government is basing its claim as the evidence just doesn’t support the Government’s claims.

“On the issue of IPPC regulations, SEPA must be held to account on these. We heard evidence today of farmers who are outwith the current scope of IPPC regulations but have decided not to expand their business in case the charging threshold is lowered.

“Clearly, as well as making those affected think seriously about their future in the industry, these regulations and associated costs are also acting as a disincentive to further expansion within the industry, which has to be a concern.

“We do not want food imports to increase as that invariably means that Scottish farming jobs are being exported.”

SNP Leader Alex Salmond MP added:

“The consensus around the table is that SEPA is completely out of control in the charges it levies on farmers and in the application of the various regulations.

“SEPA’s staff numbers have ballooned in recent years and I am now utterly convinced that a large part of what they do is now aimed at bringing in enough cash to meet their ever-inflating salary bill.

“It’s time for an SNP administration in Edinburgh so we can rein in these excesses and bring this body, which is supposed to serve the public, not the other way around, to heel.”

Stewart Stevenson
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