An action group has been formed in Scotland to tackle the burden of over-regulation of the farming industry and bring accountability and common sense back into the decision-making process.

The Regulation Action Group will tackle the issue of unnecessary red tape imposing unacceptable cost for little or no benefit and seek rationalisation of the regulatory regime.

Comprising industry specialists brought together by NFU Scotland, the group will also assist the Scottish Executive with its agricultural strategy, which includes an action point to examine this issue.

The group will review the total regulatory burden facing farms across the country and challenge both government and enforcement authorities where it is shown regulations are not justifiable.

Chairman of the group is Jim McLaren, NFUS vice-president, an arable and dairy farmer from Perthshire.

He said the regulatory system farmers were enduring had “spun out of control”.

“Farms are facing a continual increase in red tape, with massive associated charges.

Yet there is little evidence or explanation of the reasons why or the benefits.

I fully accept there will always be a level of regulation because, as farmers, we are producing food and managing land.

But it must be sensible and proportionate regulation to ensure it benefits all, the environment, consumers and farmers.”

Mr McLaren said recent examples of the problem were proposals to ban the use of tallow as a renewable fuel, plans to charge arable farmers 3000 to change irrigation locations, and a move to deal with field stones as though they were dangerous waste.

“There are serious questions as to how these proposals arise in the first place.

Our group will take a long, hard look at the system churning out these regulations.

We require transparency and accountability back in the decision-making process to bring common sense back into decisions.”

Other members are: George Barton, Scottish Agricultural College; John Hillman, former director, Scottish Crop Research Institute; Maitland Mackie, former NFUS vice-president; Ronnie Wilson, dairy farmer; and James Withers, deputy chief executive NFUS.

carolmclaren@lineone.net