Scottish government unveils plan to cut farming red tape

The Scottish government is to set up an advisory board to align all of Scotland’s farming regulatory bodies and help cut red tape.

The move is a priority recommendation in a weighty report for the government called “Doing Better Initiative to Reduce Red Tape for Farmers and Rural Land Managers” by rural consultant Brian Pack (pictured). It contains 61 separate suggestions for minimising the bureaucratic burden on farming.

The advisory board, as envisaged by Mr Pack, would act on behalf of the rural affairs secretary and prioritise the establishment of “integrated delivery bodies” that had strategic and operational alignment.

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NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller welcomed the move and said that the body – headed by a red tape czar – “might just change the regulatory environment” farmers had to work in.

Mr Miller added: “The report and its recommendations reflect the challenges faced on farm. It maps out an agenda for change and a move away from an increasingly rigid culture of enforcement, which has become detached from the real aims and outcomes of regulation. We will study the recommendations in detail over the coming days.”

Scotland’s rural affairs secretary, Richard Lochhead, who commissioned the report, said there was a great deal of merit in regulatory bodies having an integrated approach.

“The overarching advisory board will be the key to driving this recommendation forward and helping me implement the other recommendations in the report,” he said.

Other recommendations in the report, which begins with two pages of industry acronyms, include:

24 hours’ notice of an inspection should be given to farmers in normal circumstances

Every effort should be made to ensure the Cattle, Sheep and Goat Identification Inspection burdens are the minimum necessary

A continuing review of data needs and minimising data duplication to further reduce the data burdens on farmers and land managers

The Futures Programme should be used to develop IT solutions that reduce the form filling burden by use of interactive forms and databases online

An application checking system should be built into all online application systems to minimise errors and reduce administration costs

Support should be given to help farmers and land managers improve their understanding of the background regulations and compliance requirements

Succinct, more user-friendly guidance should be issued alongside the exhaustive notes that regulators require for legal purposes

Much-reduced recording requirements should be introduced as a matter of urgency for low-intensity farms in the NVZ area.

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