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Vice President's Blog - 24 February 2020

The prolonged period of wet weather has caused significant damage to flood banks, fields and fences, as well as crops. NFU Scotland has been working to secure support for farmers to tackle some of the most pressing problems including difficulties in complying with cross-compliance requirements, as Vice President Martin Kennedy discusses.


In recent weeks we have seen many experts on the news giving advice on flood management, suggesting planting more trees and slowing down the water by allowing it to spread over land.  There is no way we can stop the massive floods, and that’s always been the case. NFU Scotland recognise that climate change is having a huge impact on our lives, but we could do far more to mitigate against extensive flooding. One of the biggest reasons the engineering works of 50 to 100 years ago do not work now is because we are not allowed to maintain our watercourses in the same way as we did in the past. Nearly all of our rivers have been managed in the past by the people who have lived beside them, understood them and respected them.

We have a very large burn at the side of the house and during a spate you can hear the stones bounding down the bottom of the burn. The place of rest is the riverbed at the bottom.

For numerous generations strategic gravel and silt deposits were removed from pinch points by farmers and land managers. In most cases this was put to good use for things like fixing roads etc. These deposits resulted from big spates of water coming off land, in many cases steep land, simply filling up the riverbed. The strategic removal of this debris simply kept the rivers flowing.

NFU Scotland recognises that there is no single solution to watercourse management and that it is extremely difficult for our environment agencies who are being pulled in many directions. There has been some considerable movement from our agencies, especially SEPA, when it comes to deposit removals which is welcome, and for anyone wanting to know what the existing allowances and regulations are, please follow this link, https://www.sepa.org.uk/regulations/water/engineering/.  We need to do more and NFUS is keen to work with everyone to address this ongoing issue. This is now having a serious effect on the health and wellbeing, and livelihoods of thousands of people.

Farmers and crofters are a massive part of the solution when it comes to climate change, that’s a given. When it comes to common sense, these are also the people that look for the most practical and cost effective way to overcome a problem.

Gravel and silt removal is not necessarily the answer to preventing all floods, but having seen close up how rivers like the Tay work in high water, and looking at thousands of tons of deposits now sitting higher than was ever allowed in the past by those who managed our watercourses, I’m sure those who manage the land can help the situation.

I feel for all those who are affected by flooding, it must be horrendous, and hopefully going forward we will look more towards pragmatic water course management solutions.

Farmers who are concerned that they will not be able to comply with Greening regulations because of flooding impacts should contact their local Rural Payments & Inspections Directorate (RPID) office within 15 days of the flooding.

For advice on how to spread slurry safely, land managers are encouraged to contact 03000 99 66 99 to speak with a local SEPA officer regarding specific issues or to arrange a farm visit.  

In regards to spreading slurry during the spell of bad weather, please consider NFU Scotland’s latest Business Guide Update https://www.nfus.org.uk/nfuscontent/business-guides/17540/slurry-spreading-in-difficult-conditions


Author: Martin Kennedy

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About The Author

Martin Kennedy

Martin Vice President of NFU Scotland and is a tenant farmer in Highland Perthshire and farms with his wife Jane and three daughters, Jillian, Katrina and Yvonne. They have 600 ewes and 60 cows on the farm rising from 800ft to over 2,500ft. Martin served two years as Highland Perthshire branch chairman, before representing East Central region on the LFA committee in 2009. Martin then went on to be vice chairman then chaired the committee for three years. He has served as Vice President of NFUS for two years and is currently sitting on his third.

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