Scotland’s farmers and crofters are keen to play an important role in delivering the ambitious climate change plans set by Scottish Government – but have called for the policy tools to help them meet these aspirations.

Agriculture will play a key role in mitigating climate change
Agriculture will play a key role in mitigating climate change

That was the claim made by NFU Scotland following the recent release of the administration’s updated Climate Change Plan, which sets out a vision for supporting efficient, high quality food production through the sustainable use of Scotland’s natural land and resources to deliver on climate and biodiversity goals.

NFUS vice president Martin Kennedy said that the union backed the approach which he said had been a central plank of the organisation’s policy document, ‘Stability: The Platform for Change’ which was launched in spring 2020.

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And he said that while the union welcomed the recognition of the key role which agriculture would play in mitigating climate change, it was calling for an ambitious support and policy platform to enable transformation “sooner rather than later” as businesses need to be able to plan for the long-term: “Investment and change to operating practise cannot happen overnight,” he said.

He said that while stressing the importance of utilising Scotland’s comparative advantages in grassland and cereals and recognising that emissions shouldn’t be “off-shored”, the Scottish Government also had a duty to realise that in order to achieve the stated objectives, the targets set needed to be matched with policy and funding arrangements.

Stating that there was genuine ambition within the sector Kennedy said there was an urgent need to enhance and developed this desire: “We have already seen a hunger for incentive schemes such as the oversubscribed Sustainable Agriculture Capital Grants Scheme. Such initiatives need to be expanded and fine-tuned soon as change cannot happen overnight. We also need to support the ‘early adopters and innovators’ who have already taken positive steps to adjust the businesses.

He said the union welcomed the farmer-led climate change groups that have been set up by Rural Secretary, Fergus Ewing to make recommendations on how to develop a government-funded scheme aimed at supporting farmers and crofters to meet climate change targets while improving the profitability of farming.

Pointing to the first of these to be completed – the proposed plans for the suckler beef sector – he said the findings ran along the same lines as the union’s own views: “We are now starting to see the foundations of a future farming policy for Scotland and this is to be welcomed.”

But Kennedy stressed that it was important that policy decisions delivered practical solutions in the fields: “Such partnership engagement will influence positive next steps to delivering the collective ambition of meeting Scotland’s climate change targets.

“Farmers, crofters and growers across Scotland recognise the challenges posed by climate change and are eager to build in steps many have already taken. We will be working hard to ensure Scottish Government deliver on their commitment to identify policies and support measures in 2021.”