'LAST YEAR Scotland took a stand on the global climate emergency and saw the introduction of our new world-leading climate change legislation.

It’s recognised that we have some of the most ambitious statutory targets around, with a 75% greenhouse gas emissions reduction needed by 2030 and our commitment to be net-zero GHG economy by 2045.

This year we have seen an unprecedented challenge in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Recovery will be a challenge, but this challenge also represents opportunities, especially in relation to looking at new and innovative ways to recover from this pandemic and build towards our sustainable future and our emissions reduction targets.

Agriculture and our wider land use has a key role to play in that future and has rightly been mentioned as the foundation in both our Covid recovery and our sustainable future.

As we announced in the 2019/20 programme for government we have established the Agricultural Transformation Programme (ATP) in order to:

• Support those who manage our land to take the action required to deliver the Government’s target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions;

• Improve the environmental sustainability of agriculture by protecting and restoring Scotland’s habitats;

• Build capacity to deliver sustainability of agriculture through business practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions;

• Support land use change in agricultural environments.

And to:

• Deliver additional greenhouse gas and environmental benefits;

• Promote innovation;

• Support knowledge transfer mechanisms and more widespread adoption of best practice

It aims to enable businesses to adapt to a new support environment, so that the agricultural sector may prosper as it faces life outside the EU Single Market and Common Agricultural Policy.

The shape of that should assist farmers and crofters in particular, and surmount some of the transitional barriers that are likely to be faced.

Development of the ATP has been ongoing and has begun to bear fruit. Recently ATP funding of £1.5m was provided to assist farmers and crofters invest in farm woodland projects and forestry processing machinery.

Not only does this help to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the integration of trees on farms can have multiple benefits including increases in bio-diversity, improvements in air and water quality, reduce the risks of flooding and improves overall productivity in the farm or croft.

As well as this funding, we are exploring further options to promote the wider benefits of trees, good grassland and wider soil management and the generation of renewable energy.

We continue to look at how we can support the industry in the transition to low carbon farming practices. This includes ways in which we can support the sector to adopt precision farming machinery to reduce direct greenhouse gas emissions and how the use of this equipment may be improved so that it works to deliver full greenhouse gas reduction benefits.

Looking further into the future, the ATP will continue to develop and will take into account the work of other groups such as Suckler Beef Climate Group and the Farming and Food Production Future Policy Group.

The Scottish Government understands that there is no one solution for everyone when it comes to reducing emissions within agriculture. But there is scope for everyone to do something through looking at the low carbon alternatives and making changes and improvements to continue to help Scotland achieve our national goals.

It is vital that industry starts to plan and more importantly starts acting now to embrace low carbon farming practices and technologies. In doing so, Scottish agriculture will not just rise to this challenge, it will lead the way.'