SCOTLAND’S CLIMATE Assembly has called for an agricultural support scheme which will ‘enable a move away from meat and dairy farming’ to be implemented within the next five years.

The report – which was put together by a group of 100 citizens from all walks of life – was delivered to the Scottish Parliament last week and covered a range of issues from domestic heating and transport to land use and agriculture. Government ministers have been given six months to publish details on how they will respond.

One of their key recommendations focuses on future farming support and states that there is a ‘valuable opportunity to refocus subsidies and policy on sustainable land management to help meet carbon emission targets’. The Assembly calls for training, support and funding from Scot Gov to make this happen and states that by supporting the transition to sustainable practices in agriculture it would ‘enable a move away from meat and dairy farming, in ways that give farmers time to adapt and diversify their businesses’.

The report also recommends that within five years, the Scottish Government should implement food carbon labelling, and that government and public services ‘immediately’ procure plant-based and low-carbon food for all public sector catering and canteens.

Head of policy at Scottish Land and Estates, Stephen Young, urged caution on these recommendations: “This is a complex area and it can be hard to make direct comparisons between production methods and measuring metrics from different countries. Scotland produces some of the finest food and drink in the world to high production standards, and there is a real danger of offshoring emissions and buying in produce with higher costs, which are hard to measure on economic and emissions metrics.

“All of this means labelling of food could be complex and difficult for the consumer to understand and make informed choices,” he continued. “In terms of plant-based food, it is about balance and understanding the production system of where the food comes from. Training and education on environmental issues will help the public make the right choices.”

NFU Scotland’s president Martin Kennedy called for more detail on the implementation group that will take forward the farmer-led work that had already been done on Scotland’s climate change response: “We need to build on the good work already done by the Farmer Led Climate Change Groups to have these incentivised changes implemented within the next five years, in line with the Climate Assembly’s recommendations.”

Strategy and External Affairs Director at Scotland Food and Drink, John Davidson, added that there is no ‘silver bullet’ to reaching net zero, and welcomed industry debate and insight from the report: “Scotland’s food and drink products and businesses already enjoy a well-deserved global reputation for their premium quality and sustainable credentials, but we could all be doing more. That reputation puts our producers in a fantastic place to take advantage of global consumer demand shifting from a focus on price to provenance and environmental impact.

“Not only do we have a moral and social responsibility to do more, but there is a huge economic opportunity for our sector in becoming a world-leader in climate friendly protein and food production,” he continued. “The collaborative approach recommended by the report, including incentivising sustainable agriculture and the production of low carbon food, is welcome and indicative of the strong relationships between the sector and the government in improving our industry.”