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SEERAD reneges on terms of environmental scheme
Filed 31st May 05
"Question: when is a five-year contract legally
enforceable? Answer: when it is signed by a farmer. Question: when
is a five-year contract not legally enforceable? Answer: when it
is signed by the Scottish Executive", thundered the leader
in the Scottish Farmer, 21st May 2005.
This was the reaction to the swinging changes
to the payments available through agri-environment schemes which
farmers have already signed up to. These changes were announced
by the Scottish Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD)
without any consultation.
The Courier newspaper reported that Ross Finnie,
the Minister responsible, was furious with his officials, but presumably
he had signed off the papers before the announcement was made.
The matter raises serious issues.
Such an action undermines confidence in the integrity
of the Scottish Executive and whether or not it is its intention
to deal fairly with those over whom it exerts so much control. Or
do the Scottish Executive officials simply intend to force their
policies in a ham-fisted and dictatorial manner upon those who work
on the land.
It creates a sense of bitterness when those who
inadvertently (or even deliberately) break SEERAD's rules get severely
penalised, while there appears to be no material censorship for
those in power who break contracts.
Who is it who is running the show? Is it the Scottish
Executive officials or is it the Minister?
The consequence must be a marked undermining of
confidence in the new schemes that are (or recently were) on offer
from SEERAD: the Rural Stewardship Scheme, the Land Management Contracts
and the already troubled Organic Aid Conversion Scheme.
The affair exemplifies and fully justifies the
concerns previously expressed by others as to who rules rural Scotland
and how they do it (1, 2).
1. People Too (2004). Who governs
rural Scotland. A discussion on the extent to which we are governed
by a democratically accountable Scottish Parliament or by the Scottish
Executive Civil Service and lobby groups.
See SOCIAL/ENVIRONMENTAL/POLITICAL Homepage, filed 13 Oct
04, www.land-care.org.uk Click
Here to View
2. Macleod, Kirsty (2005). Our
countryside - we live here.
See SOCIAL/ENVIRONMENTAL/POLITICAL Homepage, filed 01 Mar
05, www.land-care.org.uk Click
Here to View