THE Scottish Government is to seek derogation from implementing the crop diversification/three-crop rule in Scotland for the 2018 scheme year.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: "The prolonged harvest and on-going wet conditions had a serious knock-on effect on cereal farmers ability to sow planned crops. This has already seen a reduction of around 20 per cent of winter crops being established and significant delays for cereal farmers in sowing spring crops. This has immediately reduced options available to meet the three-crop rule for Scotland's cereal farmers.

"Given the on-going weather conditions, it will require a period of continuous dry weather to allow spring planting to move ahead. As such, I can confirm that I have written to Commissioner Hogan seeking a one season derogation from the three-crop rule. This is a sensible approach, which if agreed by the EU, would provide much needed relief to farmers across Scotland."

NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick welcomed the move and said: "With autumn plantings substantially down on the year and the cold, wet conditions this spring working against ground preparation and planting, the window of opportunity to plant and establish spring crops in 2018 is closing and meeting the three-crop rule for many farmers would be almost impossible.

"Given the challenge, we want Scottish farmers to be able to plant crops that are economically viable and most likely to secure a market rather than being obligated to plant crops late in the spring that may be unsuited to Scottish conditions and difficult to harvest later in 2018"

*Meanwhile, rural insurer NFU Mutual is urging Scottish motorists to take extra care as prolonged harsh weather and limited highway maintenance programmes are taking their toll on countryside routes.

"People who live and work in rural areas already face huge problems with poorly maintained roads, a higher risk of accidents and a lack of gritting during the winter months," warned Martin Malone, NFU Mutual's Manager for Scotland.

"The deteriorating state of rural roads has been exacerbated by the recent, prolonged freezes. Further flooding also poses an additional hazard as many potholes are disguised, "he added.

Figures from NFU Mutual reveal a 48 per cent increase in the number of pothole claims from 2015 to 2017, with the total value of claims almost doubling over the same period. The insurer's figures form only part of the picture as many motorists might seek recompense directly from the local authority, while others might weather the costs themselves rather than claim on their car insurance.