That was the warning given by former NFU Scotland president and co-chair of one of the farmer-led groups (FLGs), Jim Walker, in an open letter to the administration which was co-signed by the leaders of the country’s main farming organisations - and backed by the chairs of the other farmer-led groups.
He said Scotland had set the most ambitious climate change targets on the planet - but delivering these in fashion which was both environmentally and economically sustainable was crucial.
Referring to the raft of reports drawn up prior to the May election by the different sectors of the industry, he said, “The industry has shown its ambition and enthusiasm through the reports that have been submitted by the FLGs. The industry has shown that it is willing and has the tools to drive change.”
Based on producing food in an efficient and environmentally and climate friendly manner, the proposals, said Walker, gave Scotland a unique opportunity to be a leader on the world stage by enabling its farming industry to achieve the necessary environmental outcomes.
“We are the only country where the government has engaged FLGs so that the recommendations and findings from those who work the land and manage our countryside can be used to deliver the right support framework.”
But the letter warned that it was ‘absolutely crucial’ for the government to continue a close level of engagement with the industry so that the enthusiasm for delivering climate change outcomes did not wane.
Walker said that the industry was behind the FLG reports, adding they had the broad backing of most environmental bodies and from across the political spectrum.
“Strong leadership is now needed within Scottish government to harness this enthusiasm and galvanise it into a common vision for all of Scottish agriculture.”
Speaking to The Scotsman, Walker said that frustration was growing at the apparent lack of movement on the setting up of the promised implementation board for taking the recommendations forward.
He feared that the delay could mean it was set to be yet another “Noah’s Ark” committee, with representatives from every environmental and lobbying body – which would produce yet another document full of good intentions but no mechanism to deliver them.
“Policy needs to have a practical core to succeed – and that’s where the work of the FLGs comes in. Not only will other farmers respect the ideas of their practical peers but these ideas will also work.”
“Farmers should not have to wait for policy to catch up with the momentum that we have generated, and as a society we simply do not have time to wait.”
A Scottish government spokesperson reiterated the promise that the implementation board would be set up by August 26, stating it would build on all the previous reports when devising practical measures for delivery.