21 May 1999
Scots delight at arbiter decision

By Allan Wright

SCOTTISH farmers are to get an independent arbiter to rule on disputes between producers and the Scottish Office.

The remit will be wide and will include all EU and national subsidy claims and the issue of separate businesses for IACS purposes.

The announcement of the new arbiter was included in the manifesto of the joint Labour/Liberal Democrat administration in the new Scottish parliament.

It was immediately welcomed by the National Farmers Union of Scotland

Jim Walker, NFUS president, said it would stop the Scottish Office acting as judge, jury, and executioner on the interpretation of European and national rules.

“There had to be some appeal system for the farmer who made a genuine mistake in form filling,” he said.

“There also had to be common interpretation of rules across Scotland and that was not always happening.”

The hand of Mr Walkers predecessor George Lyon can be seen in the move.

Mr Lyon, who is now a Lib-Dem MSP, demanded such action in the unions own election wish list last December.

Mr Lyons other hobbyhorse, getting all farm levies paid in Scotland to be retained and controlled from Scotland, has also taken a step forward.

The manifesto included a commitment to improve the promotion of Scottish produce.

Mr Walker is still striving to reach an industry compromise on the levy issue to avoid the need for legislation.

He is thought to be increasingly disenchanted with the Meat and Livestock Commission despite having had further talks with MLC chairman Don Curry.

“The future prosperity of our food production industry depends on professional marketing and promotion,” said Mr Walker.

“We are deeply involved in discussions with other industry bodies on how that can best be delivered.

“But it could be that it is the Scottish parliament which takes the initiative.”