Farming union calls for flood prevention funding

SBBN Flooding at McGregor Farms,Coldstream
SBBN Flooding at McGregor Farms,Coldstream

As bad weather continues to batter the country’s farmland, NFU Scotland has called on the Scottish Government and SEPA to examine new measures to build resilience against extreme weather events.

The Union has welcomed the Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead’s decision to view flooded farmland and is encouraging politicians and officials to visit other flood-hit farms across the country in the next few days.

The visits come as the Met Office confirmed that last month was the wettest December in Scotland since records began in 1910 and that the total rainfall that fell throughout 2015 was the second highest on record, exceeded only by the rainfall total for 2010.

NFU Scotland vice president Andrew McCornick said: “For many farmers and crofters across Scotland, the weather in 2015 meant it was a year that they would wish to forget. But 2016 has brought no end to the misery. The battering that the country has taken in recent days, hit by storm after storm, has left thousands of acres under water while those fields that have escaped the flooding are sodden.

“Valuable topsoil has been stripped from fields; debris dumped on land; fences, buildings and farm houses damaged and livestock lost. We are using our regional network to more accurately assess the scale of the damage but in these difficult times, our members can be reassured that we are there to help and our regional managers, local offices and group secretaries will do what they can to assist.

“We welcome the support shown by the Cabinet Secretary when visiting flooded farmland in Angus this afternoon.

“In the short term, we urge Scottish Government to consider making funds available to rebuild any damaged flood defences and help reinstate flooded land back into production, mirroring the Recovery Fund established by Defra in England and Wales.

“Longer term, ongoing political commitment to finding solutions will be needed if we are to not only recover from the immediate problems, but build long-term resilience into our farming systems to endure such weather events.

“Following floods in 2013, SEPA and Scottish Government showed a willingness to work with the industry on flooding and we hope to meet with both parties in the next few days.

“Measures agreed two years ago saw an increased width of dredging permitted in certain types of watercourse and introduced a catchment licence where groups of farmers could work together on river course management.

“Some of these approaches have worked, and while we have previously suggested improvements to SEPA, the current scale of flooding means a fresh review of mitigating measures is urgently needed.

“Met office figures simply reinforce the fact that our climate is changing and volatile, weather events are increasingly likely. That means it is vitally important that the measures designed to ensure farmland is resilient against flooding are regularly reviewed to assess if they are fit for purpose.”