Public goods derived from good farming practice should not come at private cost.

NFU Scotland Environment and Land Use Committee chairman, Angus MacFadyen, has called for clear political thinking in the construction of future agri-environment measures.

Earlier this year, Scottish Government Ministers decided that there would not be a normal Agri-Environment Climate Scheme application round in 2020, and instead, one-year extensions would be available for those whose AECS contracts expire in 2020 to ensure that there is continued support for land management to protect biodiversity and tackle climate change.

"Whilst this may be pragmatic due to concerns about issuing a five-year contract without certainty of budgets beyond 2020, it is unacceptable that there is no defined commitment for farmers and crofters to undertake biodiversity measures, water quality improvements, flooding mitigation, organic conversion, public access provision, and the like," said Mr MacFadyen, himself a hill farmer near Oban.

"AECS is intended to promote land management practices which protect and enhance Scotland’s natural heritage, improve water quality, manage flood risk and mitigate and adapt to climate change, as well as improving public access and preserving historic sites. The funding available should enable farmers and crofters to play their key role in managing a significant majority of Scotland’s environmental interests – including valued species and habitats. With the development of future agri-environment measures to be driven through pilots in the 2021 to 2024 period, existing positive actions by farmers and crofters must be recognised and rewarded," he said.

"It is vital that piloting in the 2021 to 2024 period fully develop a bottom-up approach to build payments around desired outcomes rather than out-dated calculations of income foregone or additional costs. Prescriptive measures, compliance complexity and static payment calculations fail to foster participation or desired outcomes.

"Under the current AECS, outstanding concerns persist as to whether the funding is sufficient and accessible to those best placed to deliver change or targeted at the interests that could add greatest benefit and thereby ensure best value for money," he concluded.