17 April 1998
Call for independent arbitration for Scotland
By Allan Wright
AN independent arbitration system is needed by Scottish farmers in their dealings with Government, according to two Aberdeenshire consultants.
Andrew Macfarlane, who is also a farmer and a former area president of the Scottish NFU, said it was wrong that the Scottish Office was judge, jury and executioner when dealing with subsidy and other claims.
“We need independent arbitration across a range of issues. The need was highlighted by the way separate farm businesses were rolled together for IACS purposes, but it extends to many other cases as well,” he said.
He quoted a client in Dumfriesshire who had been refused £18,000 of arable aid payments because Scottish Office officials claimed he had ensiled the grass from his set-aside land.
“They said they had photographic evidence of silage trailers leaving the field. The farmer says he spread the grass on his arable land. But there is no tribunal, the Scottish Office word is law,” Mr Macfarlane said.
Another Aberdeenshire consultant, Gerald Banks, was reluctant to talk about a case in his area where a farmer is being refused arable aid because he claimed land planted with trees as set-aside.
“It took the Scottish Office more than a year to say that what had been done was wrong. But the consequence could be that the farmer will have arable aid clawed back for three years,” said Mr Banks. It is thought the total loss to the farmer could be £90,000.
For this and other stories, see Farmers Weekly, 17-23 April, 1998