Union discusses 12 recommendations with Environment Minister

The frequency and severity of flooding on agricultural land in Scotland has seen NFU Scotland discuss with the Scottish Government its list of new recommendations to bolster the nation’s resilience.

Exceptional rainfall and extreme tidal surges have been responsible for significant flooding of farmland and catastrophic breaches of flood defences in several parts of Scotland this year. The Union has highlighted cases in Dumfries and Galloway, Ayrshire, the Borders and Perthshire where damage to defences and flooding have left affected farmers facing repair bills running to six figures and good quality farmland laid to waste under flood waters.

The experiences of members who have had to either deal with such events, or prevent them from happening via the maintenance of watercourses and flood defences, has led NFU Scotland to make recommendations on the following issues in particular:

The role of farmland, especially prime agricultural land, in protection from flooding

Whether the regulations governing engineering in the water environment are fit for purpose under a changing climate.

The costs/restrictions associated with constructing and maintaining flood defences.

The slow rate of progress on developing meaningful payments to farmers in return for voluntarily allowing land to flood.

The support given to farmers in negotiations with local authorities proposing to flood their land.

The status and future management of coastal flood defences.

The availability of support and advice from licencing authorities

The Union met with Scottish Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse in the Scottish Parliament today (1 April) to discuss these recommendations to give greater recognition to the value of prime agricultural land and develop a more pragmatic approach to the regulatory framework that surrounds flooding issues.

Speaking from Holyrood, NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller said: “Clearly climate change is driving ever more extreme weather events that puts our ability to produce food at risk. In these circumstances, society must be prepared to support farmers in protecting their future capability to produce with appropriate systems and defences.

“For decades, successive legislation has allowed competent authorities to pay scant attention to agricultural land when managing watercourses, building flood defences, and making planning decisions. This fostered a perception that agricultural land was a low priority for flood protection, and was instead sacrificed to protect urban areas.

“Although the Flood Risk Management Act (FRMA) five years ago removed the distinction between agricultural and non-agricultural land, it created additional complexity and we firmly believe that prevention of flooding on agricultural land continues to be of lesser concern to competent authorities.

“In particular, the eight per cent of Scotland classed as “prime agricultural land” is not being afforded the protection it warrants given its importance to overall food production and rural economic output.

“Given the likelihood of our climate continuing to change, we need to develop regulations that are more appropriate and more pragmatic as a matter of urgency. We think the recommendations we discussed today can go a long way to delivering that.”