RUMOURS THAT plans are afoot to reduce Scotland’s beef suckler herd have been firmly refuted by the Scottish Government, which has insisted that its 'proud record' of supporting and investing in farming and local food production would continue into the future.

The National Beef Association had earlier written to the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, Mairi Gougeon, to highlight concerns from members who fear that civil servants have plans to ‘dramatically reduce’ suckler herd numbers in Scotland.

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In an open letter to Ms Gougeon, NBA CEO, Neil Shand, highlighted the importance and value of Scottish beef production to the rural community: “I write to you on behalf of our beef producing members in Scotland, who continue to hear murmurs that civil servants have plans to dramatically reduce suckler herd numbers in Scotland. Beef production is the mainstay of the rural community in Scotland, is globally admired and most importantly, uses land that in many cases is not suitable for crop production of any type.

“As we enter a period of consultation on the transition away from the CAP, the industry needs – at the very least – confirmation that there will not be any further challenges on livestock numbers. It is Government’s duty to provide stability within the industry at a time of upheaval, and we ask for your clarification. Scottish beef production and its critical mass are vital to the food security of the UK.”

Mr Shand also voiced his members' fears over the sale of land in Scotland to buyers attracted by carbon credits: “We are equally concerned at the amount of Scottish land apparently being sold to foreign investors. This land is being planted with trees with a view that the carbon credits can be sold to multinationals for their benefit. The massive dose of irony of the Scottish National Party choosing this route is not lost on anyone. Is this really the vision of Scotland, that it will soon not even be owned by its own people?”

Responding, a spokesperson for the Scottish Government told The Scottish Farmer that Scottish Ministers have ‘no plans to actively reduce livestock numbers’.

The spokesperson continued: “We have a proud record of supporting and investing in farming and food production and are wholly committed to continuing to support active farming in the future. We believe that Scotland should be a global leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture.

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“While we will ensure the sector makes the emission reductions required to contribute to Scotland’s world-leading emissions targets, to support and deliver nature restoration and a just transition to net zero, we also want to produce more of our own food sustainably.

“Our positive vision for Scottish food production is one in which our world-class producers, including livestock farmers and red meat producers, thrive. That is why we want Scotland to be a Good Food Nation, with a local food strategy that supports local food production and a circular, robust supply chain.”