WITH FARMING vilified from the heavens for having a poor carbon footprint – however contentious and erroneous that may be – it was interesting to learn from Tory MSP John Scott, this week, that while airlines can 'buy' carbon offset points in the shape of forests, farmers who plant trees cannot do the same to set them against their own carbon footprint.

So, maybe it's time that someone grabs this by the scruff of the neck and sorts this anomaly out. Airlines are generally cited as one of the world 'great polluters' and it is hard to see how this will not be so. I have yet to see a facebook graphic (as so favoured by the green lobby) which shows just exactly how one average airline jet in a single Transatlantic journey compares with, say, a herd of 100 dairy cows farting for a day.

The farming versus carbon capture/loss remains a hotly debated subject – and one that will no doubt run and run – but it is time someone started putting together some hard and true facts.

There's also a notion that encouraging wetlands and bogs could be regarded as a 'carbon capture' point and included as a special payment in any future agricultural subsidy system? And, there's some merit in James Porter's argument (on this very page) which makes the point that farmers with 'offsets' to sell could turn to traders in such a commodity – and one that the likes of the aviation industry and other high polluters, seem to be willing to pay a heavy price to buy into.

Interestingly, a skip around the internet will tell you that in 2006, about $5.5bn of carbon offsets were purchased in the compliance market – whereby governments and large companies make it easy for themselves by keeping their carbon footprint within agreed limits by using cold, hard cash. This represented about 1.6bn metric tonnes of CO2.

In the much smaller, voluntary market, where individuals, companies, or governments can purchase carbon offsets to mitigate their own greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, electricity use, and other sources, there is also now a substantial global trade. In recent times, this was about 63.4m metric tonnes of CO2 reduction per year and carbon offset vendors sold about $191.3m of carbon credits to this market in 2016. So there is a market there.

For example, an individual might purchase carbon offsets to compensate for the greenhouse gas emissions caused by personal air travel – however daft that may seem, apparently some 'green' wealthy people (popstars?) ease their conscience by doing so. In other words, they ponce around the world by jet, but buy a forest to make that 'alright'.

Collectively, is there a way that Scotland could be audited as a carbon sink, thus releasing an equity that could be traded in the same way that oil and gas are at present? It's an interesting thought and one that would certainly drive the farming industry into going above and beyond on addressing their carbon footprint.

There's nothing like money as a driver of change.