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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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FARM INSPECTIONS REDUCTION ACHIEVED SIX MONTHS EARLY

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed the first year's results from SEARS (Scotland's Environmental and Rural Services) which show that Scotland's farmers are saving time and money through the partnership working which has cut the bureaucracy associated with the agricultural sector.

With agriculture forming a major part of the Banff & Buchan economy the SNP candidate is delighted with these early results in cutting red tape and improving information sharing. One of the big complaints from farmers had been the previous inspection regime which could often see a farm being inspected by different agencies one after the other. So far the initial target of 2,000 fewer inspections have been achieved six months ahead of target.

There is also a continuing drive to see rural agencies such as the Forestry Commission, Scottish Government Staff and SNH working much more closely and in a more joined up way.

The achievements of SEARS to end March 2009 have been highlighted in the partnership's first annual review include:

  • More than 2,000 fewer inspections or visits to land managers, achieved six months ahead of target
  • £150,000 saving to sheep farming industry through the removal of groundwater licence charges
  • A 24/7 contact centre and SEARS web portal up and running
  • The opportunity for land managers to change personal information with up to nine organisations through one single contact
Speaking during a visit to New Deer Show at the weekend, Eilidh Whiteford said:

"These early results are excellent for the North-east, with its important agricultural sector. When I speak to farmers around Banff & Buchan one of the biggest concerns has been bureaucracy and the first year's operation of SEARS has made some great progress in that.

"This was always going to be a challenging task, with a cultural change needed in our public bodies, as well new working methods, staff training and better information sharing.

"However, I am delighted to see from its first annual review that the SEARS partnership is working very well and that the bodies involved are rising to the challenges and the staff in these organisations should be recognised for the hard work they have put in to achieving these results.

"This time last year my colleague Richard Lochhead committed to a 2,000 reduction in inspections by October 2009. I am very pleased to see that the reduction was achieved six months ahead of schedule.”

SNP Westminster candidate for Gordon, Richard Thomson, who also attended New Deer Show added:

"In these difficult economic times, the reduction of around £150,000 in costs to the sheep farming industry through SEPA waiving its groundwater charges was a welcome boost. This was made possible by SEPA's participation in SEARS and I welcome the commitment to repeat the waiver this year.

"This week's publication of the SEARS biosecurity protocol is another important landmark as it is vital that everyone involved in farm visits is up to speed with biosecurity measures.

"SEARS is an important development for Scotland's rural land managers and we can expect even more improvements in the years ahead as the bodies continue to simplify bureaucracy and reduce process delays."

Note:

SEARS is a partnership comprising nine bodies which deal directly with Scotland's land managers:
  • Animal Health
  • Cairngorms National Park Authority
  • Crofters' Commission
  • Deer Commission Scotland
  • Forestry Commission Scotland
  • Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority
  • Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency

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