The Scottish government has announced changes to its slurry rules following amendments to the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 after a 12-week consultation, which took place earlier this year.

The rule changes include improving controls on the storage of slurry and digestate to reduce leakage, and more targeted spreading to maximise the nutrient benefit and reduce emissions.

Key elements of the regulatory changes include the phasing out of broadcast spreading of slurries by splash plates, and the introduction of low-emission, precision-spreading equipment.

Slurry stores built prior to 1991, providing they are fit for purpose can be retained. However, all farms must have adequate slurry storage – 22 weeks for those keeping cattle and 26 weeks for pigs.

If storage improvements are needed, the changes will be phased in with some farms having five years to comply.

If a pre-1991 store is to be ‘reconstructed or enlarged’ to meet storage requirements, then it will no longer be exempt and will then have to comply with the British Standards.

NFU Scotland environmental resources policy manager, Sarah Cowie said:

“In what has been a nationwide consultation exercise for NFU Scotland, we welcome that Scottish government has recognised and revised the proposals that were of highest concern to our farmers and crofters.

“In the months since the consultation closed, we have been involved in constructive conversations with civil servants and SEPA with the aim of addressing these.

"Without the very active engagement of our members, this would have undoubtedly resulted in more costs being imposed on the industry.

“As a result, the proposals have been revised to make it easier for farmers to comply, while at the same time the primary objectives of reducing the risk of point of source pollution, diffuse pollution and minimising emissions, which NFU Scotland supports, can still be achieved.

"We will study the final version of the regulations that will come into force at the start of the 2022 and make sure our members have as much information as possible."

'A great deal of consternation and worry'

“When first published, the proposals drew a great deal of consternation and worry that significant capital investment for facilities and upgrades would be required to comply," she added.

A clear omission from the Scottish government announcement is what funding will be available to assist the industry to make necessary changes.

“The only available Scottish government support for slurry storage in 2021 was through a very limited Agri-Environment and Climate Scheme (AECS).

"While AECS rounds for 2022-24 have been confirmed, there are no details on whether this is an option for slurry storage and spreading investment during the transitional period.

“NFU Scotland is clear that where significant capital investment is required by farm businesses, adequate, non-competitive funding should be provided to allow them to adapt and invest in upgrades and equipment in order to comply with the regulations.”