These were among some of the details on how Scotland’s farm policy would develop under a future SNP government, which were laid out in the party’s manifesto yesterday.
“Our focus, if re-elected, will be two-fold,” said rural economy cabinet secretary, Fergus Ewing.
“First, we want to produce more of our own food sustainably and to farm and croft with nature. Second, we will reform and revitalise farming to create a more diverse, flourishing industry. We will use all the powers and funding we have at Holyrood to deliver on both.”
He said that while England was shifting away from direct payments, a SNP government would continue to support farming in Scotland with direct payments, although he warned Westminster could hinder this ambition with the Internal Market Act.
The manifesto is committed to supporting active farming and food production with direct payments. “By 2025, however, we will shift half of all funding for farming and crofting from unconditional to conditional support and there will be targeted outcomes for biodiversity gain and a drive towards low carbon approaches which improve resilience, efficiency and profitability.”
Following the farmer-led climate change groups, the manifesto promised that a single implementation board would be set up with representation from all farming sectors to drive the work forward.
The document also proposed the creation of a new marketing brand “Sustainably Scottish” – with the £1.5 million which would be available under the recently repatriated red meat levy arrangements being used to support Scotch beef, lamb and pork to become the first products.
Alongside a national protein strategy aimed at encouraging sustainable production of livestock and more plant-based proteins to be grown in Scotland, it was proposed that there would be a doubling of organic production in the country.
On animal health and welfare, live exports of animals for fattening and slaughter would be banned and transport of livestock between the islands and mainland would only be allowed with stringent welfare standards in place.
Closing of the ‘loopholes’ in the law protecting foxes and other mammals was also proposed - and plans to license driven grouse shoots were reiterated.
On plant health, the party made plain its continued opposition to the commercial cultivation of GM crops and proposed to adhere to EU standards and rules on pesticides and fertilisers.
A review and reform of the use of urea fertiliser to minimise ammonia emissions was also highlighted and promoting work on and uptake of methane inhibitors.
The manifesto also flagged up the party’s continued focus on forestry, with the targets for new woodland creation increased by 50 per cent - up from 12,000 ha a year to 18,000 ha a year by 2025.