The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has announced new dredging arrangements that will help farmers to prevent flooding.
Details of the new arrangements will be explained by SEPA staff together with representatives from the National Farming Union Scotland (NFUS) at a series of joint meetings to be held across Scotland throughout March. The forums will also allow landowners to discuss with SEPA land drainage and watercourse management issues.
The Perthshire meeting takes place on Tuesday, March 12 at the Huntingtower Hotel, near Perth.
Perthshire North MSP John Swinney, who recently chaired a meeting in flood-hit Coupar Angus, said: “I very much welcome this development from SEPA and trust that this will quickly lead to an improvement in what has become a growing problem for farmers in my constituency.
“Water course management is a hugely important issue for agricultural productivity and reconciling this with our responsibility for biodiversity is of the utmost importance. With these changes I anticipate a far more complementary approach to both these issues across Scotland.
“The fact that this initiative is supported by NFUS speaks to the vital nature of this agenda and will help separate fact from fiction on the matter.”
Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser said: “The Tayside area, most of which falls into my Mid-Scotland and Fife region, is one of the worst-hit areas for flooding in Scotland. Hopefully the relaxation of SEPA rules will give farmers more support to protect their land from disaster.”
Applications to dredge will not be guaranteed automatically, but farmers who have clogged-up ditches are recommended to apply to SEPA to dredge them. Costs have been cut to £77 for an online application, and authorisations can be granted after 30 days, rather than four months which was previously the case.
David Harley, water and land manager at SEPA, said: “SEPA understands that land managers have faced very challenging conditions during the recent, and unusually, wet weather and will want to ensure that drainage systems work. Field drainage is a complex issue and the condition of soils, sub-surface field drains and drainage ditches are all important and related factors.”
The NFUS has been pressing SEPA to revise the rules on dredging.
Vice-president Allan Bowie, said: “SEPA has made a sensible decision which could make a real difference to the thousands of Scottish farmers whose fields have lain miserably under water for months and, in many cases, years. The effects of flooding on farmland can be devastating, severely affecting returns and degrading precious soils.’’