Tim Bailey Reflects on the Scottish Programme for Government

Having had a few weeks to reflect on the new Scottish Programme for Government it’s difficult not to be overawed by the apparent challenges the farming industry faces in responding to this.

The key driver throughout this is the climate emergency and the need for Scotland to become carbon net zero by 2045. It’s quite natural to feel that farming has enough challenges in the here and now to worry about, without also concerning ourselves with what needs to happen in 25 years’ time. Surely this is a circle that can’t be squared, especially by ‘tiny’ Scotland?

Those additional concerns are not 25 years away though. The red meat industry is under threat right now from negative PR because of overstated claims on climate change. This in turn is impacting consumer demand and dampening price bounce-back. Local arable crops are competing on a global stage at depressed prices against regions where environmental sustainability isn’t overly acknowledged. So how we do we position our products to increase demand to differentiate them in the local, national and international markets?

Namely by being climate friendly. The PfG is not a threat, it’s an opportunity to be grasped.

We can do this by:

  • making more informed decisions through better use of production data (levering existing, accessing available, and capturing new sources
  • piloting proof of concept programmes that demonstrate that farmers both capture carbon and reduce it through improved working efficiencies
  • transitioning agriculture by modernisation and investment to enable these changes
  • seeking more collaborative working approaches
  • re-embracing the principles of circular economy – reuse and recycle what is produced in the rural economy.

Currently we cannot justifiably claim we have no impact on CC.

Similarly, we cannot expect to be sustainable and profitable when competing as commodity producers on a world stage.

We can, and must, accept that change is needed. We can acknowledge that there are opportunities ahead and by grasping the ‘CC nettle’, work to become both more sustainable and more productive (=efficient, =profitable). By working together, and aligned to this positive change agenda rather than competing against each other, we can use the natural sustainability of our landscapes, systems and water to sell added value sustainable food for all to enjoy with a clean conscience.