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18 February 2003
Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) in Lower Nithsdale
Demonstration of Poor Science over-ruled by Scottish Parliament
Scottish Farming Leader Article, March 2003 (Below)
Minutes of the Scottish Parliament Transport and
Environment Committee Meeting, January 2003 (Below)
UK Ltd: Review of the Proposed Lower Nithsdale Nitrate Vulnerable
Zone, January 2003 (PDF)
briefing submitted to the Transport and Environment Committee (PDF)
submission to the Transport and Environment Committee (PDF)
The following article published in the Scottish
Farming Leader March 2003 illustrates how the Scottish Parliament
is prepared to enforce poor science in carrying out Directives
The Scottish Executive proposed that lower
Nithsdale from around Thornhill to the sea be designated as a NVZ.
The legislation requires action by farmers and not any other source
of nitrates leaching to underground water.
NFUS objected, based on the quality of evidence
being used by the Scottish Executive to justify the proposal.
With the assistance of Buccleugh Estates, expert
hydrological advice was commissioned from Entec Consultants*
(1). Their report showed that underground water
in the Dumfries aquifer was in no danger of passing the threshold
level at which designation would be necessary under EU law. This
is the water that provides significant part of the public water
Also, NFUS challenged the admissibility of the
single reading from a borehole site in the Thronhill area that breached
the limit for concentration of nitrates in water. We pointed out
that the EU Directive requires regular readings over a twelve month
In addition, it needed to be checked because it
was radically out-of-line with other readings in the area, possibly
because of surface contamination and because it had been taken during
particularly wet weather during August.
NFUS took the issue to the Scottish Parliament
where John Scott MSP moved an annulment motion that would have stopped
approval by the Transport and Environment Committee. This would
have forced the issue to a debate in the full Parliament.
At the Committee, on 22 January 2003, the Minister
said that he had been told that he was obliged to act because of
the association of the subject with drinking water safety. However,
the bore hole with the high reading was not deep enough to be sampling
Evidence from sampling of the water supply points
showed that it would take at least 60 years to get to the problem
level on current trends.
Nonetheless, the Committee voted 6 to 2 with one
abstention in favour of designation.
Reproduced from NFUS Scottish Farming
Leader March 2003
* Entec is one of the UK's largest environmental and engineering
consultancies, with HQ in Gosforth, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (www.entec.com)
The following is the reported minutes of the
Scottish Parliament Committee that considered the matter
TRANSPORT AND ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE
2nd Meeting, 2003 (Session 1)
Wednesday 22 January 2003
Bristow Muldoon (Convener)
Nora Radcliffe (Deputy Convener)
Ross Finnie, Alasdair Morgan, Alex Fergusson and David Mundell.
The meeting opened at 9.51 am.
1. Subordinate Legislation:
The Committee took evidence on the Designation of Nitrate Vulnerable
Zones (Scotland) (No.2) Regulations 2002 (SSI 2002/546) from-
Jim Walker, President, NFU Scotland
Richard Church, Hydrologist, Entec UK Limited
Lisa Schneidau, Convener, Agricultural Task Force, Scottish Wildlife
Fiona Newcombe, Agricultural Task Force, RSPB Scotland.
2. Subordinate Legislation:
The Committee considered the following negative instrument: The
Designation of Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (Scotland) (No.2) Regulations
2002 (SSI 2002/546)
John Scott moved-S1M-3731: That the Transport and the Environment
Committee recommends that nothing further be done under the Designation
of Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (Scotland) (No.2) Regulations 2002 (SSI
After debate, the motion
was disagreed to by division:
For 2, Against 6, Abstentions 1.
1. The members of the Transport and Environment Committee belong
to the following parties:
- Bruce Crawford - SNP, Mid Scotland and Fife
- Robin Harper - Scottish Green Party, Lothians
- Angus MacKay - Labour, Edinburgh South
- Maureen Macmillan - Labour, Highlands and Islands
- Fiona McLeod - SNP Deputy Spokesperson on the
Environment, West of Scotland
- Bristow Muldoon (Convener) - Labour
- Nora Radcliffe (Deputy Convener) - Lib Dem,
- John Scott - Scottish Conservative and Unionist
- Elaine Thomson - Labour, Aberdeen North
2. Documents Submitted to the Transport and Environment Committee
- NFUS briefing, 18 December 2002 (Download
- Entec UK Limited. Review of the Proposed Lower
Nithsdale Nitrate Vulnerable Zone, January 2003 (Download
- Scottish Wildlife Trust - No written evidence
available on Scottish Parliament Website
- RSPB Scotland. Nitrate Vulnerable Zones. (Download
3. It is intended that the RSPB submission will be the subject
of a future aricle on Land-Care.
4. Readers' attention is drawn to the article by Christopher Booker,
"Pointless Prohibition - NVZ's" in the Daily Telegraph
of 22 September 2002 (Click
here to view).
1. Entec UK Limited (2003). Review
of the Proposed Lower Nithsdale Nitrate Vulnerable Zone. January
Further Reading Recommended by Land-Care
Booker, Christopher (2002). Pointless Prohibition - NVZ's. Daily
Telegraph, 22 September 2002.
(Filed 19 February 2002, www.land-care.org.uk,
here to view).
Prof Trewavas and other speakers at LEAF Conference 26 September,
Battleby, Perthshire. Land-Care, 2002, click
here to view.
Henton, Tricia (2002). Legislation, Directives and Confusion - Or
Is It? Paper delivered at LEAF Conference, 26 September, Battleby,
(Filed October 2002, www.land-care.org.uk,
here to view).
Resignation of SEPA Chief Executive, 24 October 2002.
(Filed 28 October 2002, www.land-care.org.uk,
here to view).