Impact of new slurry legislation remains a concern

Donald Cameron MSP remains concerned about the new slurry storage legislation.

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An MSP who wrote to Scotland’s rural affairs secretary and the country’s environmental regulator about Kintyre farmers’ fears over the ‘staggering financial implications’ of new slurry storage regulations remains concerned about the changes.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has now had responses to the letters he sent to Mairi Gougeon MSP and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), following amendments to Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 legislation, which mean many Kintyre farms may be required to reconstruct or enlarge their existing slurry storage facilities in order to comply.

NFU Scotland has continued to call on the Scottish Government to increase the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) budget, ring-fence funds within the scheme for slurry storage investment and extend the Scottish Agricultural Capital Grants Scheme, calls which Mr Cameron has backed.

In response to Mr Cameron’s letter, Ms Gougeon said it was ‘absolutely necessary’ to update the slurry storage regulations which had remained mostly unchanged for 30 years.

She said that the new regulations, made following a 12-week public consultation and engagement with the agricultural sector, had introduced improved controls over the storage of slurry, to reduce the risks of pollution, and more targeted spreading, to maximise the nutrient benefit and reduce emissions.

Ms Gougeon added that support had been provided to enable farmers to modernise their slurry storage over a number of years and she reminded Mr Cameron that the AECS 2022 round was currently open and allowed for slurry storage applications for famers and crofters within the SEPA-identified priority catchments, which
includes parts of Kintyre.

Mr Cameron said: ‘I remain concerned that Mairi Gougeon’s response simply does not address many of the issues concerning local farmers.

‘While she states that the AECS covers Kintyre, in fact many of the areas within Kintyre where the problems have arisen are excluded. And some of the assumptions made by the minister about the use of slurry are contested by the very farmers who actually use it.

‘This is not an issue that is going away and I fully intend pursuing it until we arrive at a solution which actually meets the needs of our local farmers.’

South Kintyre councillor Tommy Macpherson added: ‘The cabinet secretary’s letter makes reference to 161 awards in funding since 2016 nationwide. Kintyre must have that number of farm holdings alone.

‘It is also my understanding that identified areas within Kintyre eligible for aid are, in the main, hill farms, small holdings or crofts…farms that do not generate slurry!

‘Within the AECS funding support, the Scottish Government must facilitate a soft loan scheme. No high street bank will cover the sums Kintyre farmers are having to invest.

‘With a sense of urgency, Holyrood must revisit its amended slurry regulations. The “one size fits all” approach is not workable and cannot we eat trees.’