A drive to cut needless bureaucracy for Scottish farmers has been launched by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead.
A working group is being established to consider how to reduce the red tape associated with farming. This fulfils a Scottish Government commitment to look at how best to help farmers free up time for farming by reducing on-farm inspections and bureaucracy.
Brian Pack, former chief executive with ANM Group and a well-respected figure in the farming sector, will chair the group which will also include representatives from the farming industry, local and central government and NDPBs.
Mr Pack, who chaired the Inquiry into Future Support for Agriculture and Rural Development, will take up his post shortly. The project will begin with a scoping phase during which time Mr Pack will carry out preliminary consultation before confirming the exact remit and membership of the group. Members will be appointed later in the year.
Mr Lochhead said:
"We've already made good progress on reducing bureaucracy for farmers - the SEARS initiative has delivered a reduction of over 8,000 visits and inspections to date - and I'm keen to build on that. Farmers and the wider rural community often tell me there is still some way to go.
"However, this is not something which government can deliver alone. We need to work closely with farmers, rural communities, and government at all levels to ensure that we achieve a workable solution.
"That's why I am establishing a government/industry working group and I'm delighted that Brian Pack has agreed to chair this group. I'm sure his extensive experience will enable him to find solutions that will meet the diverse needs of those involved.
"It's crucially important that our farmers are free to do what they do best - producing food for the nation and managing our magnificent landscape - without getting bogged down in reams of paperwork.
"However, this does need to be balanced against the importance of monitoring to ensure public money is being well spent and this will be particularly important in light of the current CAP reform negotiations.
"I look forward to receiving the group's final report and I'm sure all those involved in Scottish farming will welcome this drive to streamline bureaucracy and free up our farmers to farm."
Mr Pack said:
"The wish to reduce the red tape surrounding farming is common to all sectors of the industry and government and, therefore, I am excited by the opportunity to work with stakeholders and government to identify ways of achieving this.
"The need to ensure that recommendations to free up farmers' time for the all important tasks of producing food and looking after the environment also recognise the need to provide comfort that public money is being used as intended. It makes my role and that of the working group both interesting and challenging. However, with goodwill from all concerned, I am optimistic that we can make a difference."
Brian Pack OBE is a highly respected figure in UK agriculture and food sectors with experience in both business and academia, through various roles including as chief executive of ANM Group and Chair of the former Rowett Research Institute Governing Body.
He previously chaired the Inquiry into Future Support for Agriculture and Rural Development which produced its final report The Way Ahead for Scotland in November 2010. A Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Societies, he was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours in 1999 for service to agriculture, food and marketing.
The group is expected to provide an interim report with initial recommendations within six months of being established, with a final report and recommendations to be produced around this time next year.
Scottish Land & Estates has asked to be involved in the working group.