9 January 1998

Scots and Sewel in frank exchange

GOVERNMENT has accepted that it has a responsibility to ensure the UK farming industry remains viable, according to George Lyon, one of the two acting presidents of the Scottish NFU.

He was reporting on a three-hour meeting with Scottish farm minister Lord Sewel on Monday, where there had been a "robust exchange of views". In a statement, Lord Sewel said it had been a useful and constructive exchange on both short and long-term issues.

"The dialogue will continue with the aim of reaching an understanding on how we can best secure a viable future for the industry in Scotland," said Lord Sewel. The next meeting has been arranged for Feb 2.

Mr Lyon said the union had emphasised that the principle of green £ compensation had now been accepted by government. And the short-term farming case would be based on extending compensation from beef to other commodities.

"Ministers must accept that we are members of a common agricultural policy, whether they like that policy or not, and that unless they fight for our industry in Europe they will export it to other member states," he said.

On the domestic front, and following the resignations of president Sandy Mole and chief executive Tom Brady in December, Mr Lyon and his joint leadership colleague Stewart Whiteford announced that:

# They will work in tandem without electioneering until Jan 21 when a meeting of the unions general purposes committee is expected to elect a chairman to head affairs until the agm on March 6.

# The severance package with Mr Brady, brokered by a consultant recommended by the NFU of England and Wales, will remain secret until the annual accounts are published in mid-February.

# Much closer links are to be forged between the union and its London-based counterpart, which has offered personnel to Scotland until the post of chief executive is filled. A similar offer has been made by the NFU Mutual.