16 July 1998
Big shake-out in store for structure of SNFU

By Allan Wright

A cash crisis, dwindling membership, and a lack of proper financial control in recent years, lie behind radical plans to reshape the Scottish NFU. Proposals for the changes will go before the ruling council next Wednesday (July 22), when approval in principle is sought.

Given that, there will be a consultation process before the changes are implemented from November. The proposals already have the backing of the unions general purposes committee.

SNFU president, George Lyon, admitted this week that there had been no proper financial control in recent years, that the cumulative loss from 1996 was £314,000, and that, without action, the loss would be £514,000 by the turn of the century. The union has liquid assets of less than £1m.

“Our bankers have been sympathetic and are allowing us to operate in deficit for the time being. The aim of the reform is to break even within two years,” he said.

That will be done by reducing headquarters salary costs by 20%, or £180,000. Four redundancies have already been announced and the small team which runs events, such as Dairy Scot, will have the chance of a management buy out.

The cost of committee meetings at headquarters is to be cut by £100,000 a year, mainly by amalgamating the unions existing 28 areas into eight regions. The 100-plus branches will remain, although mergers will be encouraged.

An investment of £100,000 is to be made in three policy directors, working from home, to service regions and branches.

Each branch will appoint a member to a regional board which will have its own budget to organise a programme of open meetings on specialist subjects. The idea of open meetings stems from the success of recent union roadshows, which have attracted big audiences compared with those attending branch and area meetings.

One of the two union vice-presidents is to be put in charge of recruitment, especially among larger arable farmers. A countryside membership category will also be created. The union admits that only 56% of full time farmers are members.