Aberdeenshire farmer Peter Chapman MSP has resigned as the Scottish Conservative Party spokesman on rural affairs over a row about lobbying in favour of construction of a new abattoir at Inverurie.
A former NFU Scotland vice president, Mr Chapman, whose family farming business is based at South Redbog near Fraserburgh, had been approached by the Aberdeen and Northern Marts (ANM) Group with a request to contact the Aberdeenshire councillors who sit on the Garioch Area committee.
He was asked by ANM to press councillors to support the much-delayed planning application for an extension to the business park which sits alongside ANM’s Thainstone market just outside Inverurie.
There is a sense of urgency about this application in the farming community. The park itself involves a £5 million investment, but the key occupant will be Scotbeef Inverurie, which plans to construct a £17 million abattoir on part of the site.
This will replace two existing plants in the centre of Inverurie and the Scottish Government has backed the investment by approving a £4 million food processing, marketing and co-operation grant.
Ministers have also approved planning permission for the business park, reversing an earlier rejection by the Garioch council committee.
The Scottish Government approval came in January but the Garioch Area committee again objected over concerns about the effect on landscape, access and infrastructure.
One of the main objectors to the application has been Green Party Councillor Martin Ford, who previously battled to stop Donald Trump’s golf course at Balmedie and the Aberdeen West Peripheral Route.
Speaking to Farmers Guardian on the day of his resignation, Mr Chapman said: “I had no hesitation in agreeing to Grant Rogerson’s [ANM chief executive] request to speak to each councillor individually.
“It was clearly in my constituents’ interest to do so. The mistake I made was not declaring in each phone call that I own 50,000 shares in ANM.
“It is no secret that I have these shares in the co-operative and they are declared in the Scottish Parliament Register of Interest, but it is quite clear with hindsight that I should have made my financial interest clear in the phone calls.
“As a result, I cannot in all conscience continue in post, hence my reason for offering my resignation.”
Laurencekirk farmer Andy Moir said: “This is a loss to the farming industry. Anyone who knows Peter will know he was just acting on behalf of his constituents.”