NFU Scotland has written to the Scottish government and Scottish Environemnt Protection Agency calling for a meeting to discuss watercourse management following significant flooding.
While Scotland has not suffered flooding to the same extent as elsewhere, there are many individual farmers who have experienced significant damage and losses in one of the stormiest winters in some areas of Scotland.
The union has been receiving calls from members hit by flooding since late December and the number now affected by the high rainfall is increasing.
Many of those contacting the union feel that the rules around watercourse management are confusing, expensive and restrictive.
NFUS president Nigel Miller has written to Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse and SEPA chairman David Sigsworth asking for regulations and guidance to be examined in light of problems this winter.
Mr Miller wrote: “I have watched with dismay as farmers and rural residents in many parts of England and Wales have battled with flooding over recent weeks. While Scotland has not suffered to the same extent, there are many farmers who have individually experienced significant damage and losses.
“This, coupled with a groundswell of opinion that regulation of management of watercourses is too confusing, expensive and restrictive – and is thus reducing the resilience and productivity of Scottish farming – means I feel the time has come for a review of this issue here in Scotland.
“NFU Scotland welcomed the changes made to the Controlled Activities Regulations (CAR) in 2012/3 as a step in the right direction. This included a new registration for removal of parts of dry gravel bars, increasing the registration threshold for previously straightened watercourses from three to five metres, and the introduction of catchment licences.
“However, further change is essential if Scottish agriculture is to remain productive and viable under a changing climate. Due to years of restrictive, expensive and confusing regulation, a large number of farmers have heavily silted or gravelled watercourses, which are negatively impacting on field drainage and watercourse carrying capacity.
“This is reducing the productivity of farm land, increasing the diffuse pollution risk and increasing climate change emissions.
“There are also numerous instances of damage to flood banks caused by overly restrictive regulation of management of gravel bars. Repair of these defences will be extremely expensive, and in the meantime the flood risk in the vicinity is increased.
“It is highly likely that higher rainfall and more extreme rainfall events will typify our future climate here in Scotland. NFU Scotland calls on the Scottish government and SEPA to engage in discussion about how to rebalance regulation of the management of watercourses, rather than waiting for events to bring about a crisis situation that affects our members, taxpayers and government.
Mr Miller has invited interested parties to meet at their earliest convenience and agree a course of action.