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NFU Scotland lobbying secures £1.8 million floodbank restoration following tragic flooding

22/11/2023

NFU Scotland has welcomed the Scottish Government announcement of a £1.8 million fund to support floodbank restoration.

Following the recent exceptional and tragic extreme weather events, which saw loss of life and extensive flood damage in parts of Scotland, NFU Scotland and its farmer members have been campaigning for funding to help with the repair work.

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That has seen the Union, and its members bring Cabinet Ministers, senior politicians, local MSPs and officials on farm to view the damage. NFU Scotland also raised the need for floodbank restoration support and the need for active river management in its recent meeting with First Minister Humza Yousaf.

While details on the scheme and its opening are expected next month, it is understood that eligible businesses will be able to apply for grants of up to £30,000 to help repair man-made floodbanks. The eligible local authority areas will be Moray, Perth and Kinross, Aberdeenshire, City of Aberdeen, Angus and Fife.

The Union has already raised with Scottish Government the need for riverbank restoration to be included in the scheme. While not man-made, some of the worst damage in the recent flooding saw large areas of riverbank completely eroded.

NFU Scotland President Martin Kennedy met with several politicians on farms in Perthshire in recent weeks to allow them to witness the damage first hand. He said:

“We welcome the announcement and recognition from Scottish Government, through this fund, that the exceptional and tragic damage seen as a result of the recent storms merited support to drive the recovery, restore the considerable damage done and protect communities and valuable farmland from similar events in the future.

“We are still gathering data from farmers affected by the floods, but it is already clear that the cost of repair and restoration, alongside the damage, debris removal and crop loss, will leave the farming industry with a bill that runs to several millions. We already have examples of flood bank breaches ranging from five metres to fifty metres that will need reinstatement. We also have examples of riverbank erosion stretching to more than five hundred metres and that is why it is important that they are recognised in the scheme to allow banks to be strengthened and returned to their original height.

“We also need Scottish Government and NatureScot to recognise that, in some instances, the scale of damage was exacerbated by growing beaver activity, burrowing into and significantly weakening long established floodbanks.

“We welcome Scottish Government recognising that repairing flood banks is a crucial step to safeguarding rural communities and land from any future extreme weather events. But it would be unacceptable to us and the general public if these necessary repairs were supported by the public purse only to be undermined by failure to control and manage the beaver population around areas of productive farmland.

“We also believe that the worst of the flooding could have been avoided had farmers been permitted to carry out routine river management as we used to do in the past.Previously, right across the country, we would regularly remove gravel and silt from strategic pinch points on our rivers at no cost to the taxpayer. This preserved farmland and helped enormously in protecting towns and villages from flooding. 

“What we are seeing now as a result of mismanagement or indeed no management of rivers is larger gravel bars and islands appearing and causing much greater erosion and flood bank breaches. This is not only a threat to land and crops but also a threat to wider property, roads and infrastructure and must be addressed by Scottish Government.”

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