South Scotland

Scotland's snow-hit farm aid claims assessed

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Media captionFarmer John Kerr says he lost 33% of his livestock in the snow

A committee set up to assess compensation claims from farmers affected by heavy spring snow has met for the first time.

Nearly 1,000 farmers have applied for assistance from the Scottish government support package of nearly £6m.

Thousands of sheep and lambs along with other livestock perished in the drifts caused by the March snow storms.

Areas including Dumfries and Galloway, Arran and Kintyre were particularly badly affected.

The snow struck at lambing time with huge drifts meaning many farmers were unable to reach - or find - their flocks for days on end.

They reported high mortality rates and business-threatening financial losses.

The Scottish government announced a compensation package of £6m - with some spent immediately on recovering dead animals.

The residual £5.75m is now about to be distributed to those affected by the blizzards and other weather extremes like the sandstorms which hit parts of the north east.

A total of 958 applications have been received.

A committee is starting to sift through them but the volume means it could be some time before payouts are confirmed.

NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller said its surveys had highlighted "substantial damage" to the industry.

"The impact of prolonged periods of cold and wet weather were compounded by extreme events that saw snowstorms hammer livestock in some parts of the country and sandstorms smother crops in others," he said.

"Given the exceptional conditions, NFU Scotland made a robust case to the Scottish government on the need for assistance to be made available and the fact that almost 1,000 farming families from across Scotland have applied justifies our approach for help.

"Scottish government must be congratulated for the package it pulled together to recognise the difficulties being faced."

He said many farming businesses would have to wait well into next year before a "genuine recovery" could be expected.

However, Mr Miller added that the weather aid scheme could provide a "very welcome cushion".

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