FARMERS and crofters have been reminded that Scotland's seasonal hedge cutting ban comes into force on March 1, as the bird nesting and rearing season begins.

The closed period will stay in place until August 31, preventing the cutting and trimming of hedges and trees to meet agriculture's cross-compliance requirement to protect wildlife habitats.

However, a hedge or tree may be trimmed from August 1 if the hedge or tree is in a field which will be sown with oilseed rape, temporary grass or another crop subject to prior written consent of Scottish Ministers, where the hedge or tree is adjacent to the field being sown.

The only other exception to the overall rule is for road safety where a hedge or tree overhangs a road, surfaced track or a footpath which may obstruct or interfere with the passage or view of vehicles, pedestrians or horse riders, or the obstruction of light from a public lamp. Before undertaking trimming in August under this exemption, farmers and crofters must check the full length of the hedge for nesting birds. If active nests are found, trimming must be delayed until all birds have fledged.

NFU Scotland combinable crops chairman, Ian Sands, reminded farmers: “The hedge cutting ban coming into force is yet another example of where farmers are protecting and encouraging wildlife within the countryside. Last year Scottish farmers maintained over 1329 miles of hedges as part of Greening measures and the growth in numbers of bird species, such as corn-buntings and curlews, is recognition of this.

“Farmers and crofters have always been custodians of the countryside and by enabling nesting birds the sanctuary of Scottish hedgerows, farmers are once again actively encouraging a wide variety of habitats for a number of species.

“The rule change in 2018 which allows hedges and trees to be trimmed in August where oilseed rape or grass is being sown was a practical decision by Scottish Government after repeated lobbying from NFUS," he added. “NFUS is keen to establish a system post-Brexit which allows farmers to get on with the day job of feeding the nation, whilst still delivering on environmental outcomes.”