Sir, – Although the Scottish Government has agreed to extend the life of the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) for another year until the end of 2021, it is hugely disappointing that no other scheme has been proposed to ensure that there is a seamless continuation of a scheme which benefits nature and achieves a wide degree of biodiversity.

The AECS and its predecessor schemes have contributed so much towards enriching the countryside, enhancing nature and enabling farmers to carry out public good.

The fact that 3000 Scottish farmers participated in this scheme is surely testament to their belief that nature means business and the two can go hand in hand.

If the financial support for this environmental scheme is going to be withdrawn at the end of 2021, this could spell disaster for biodiversity and all forms of wildlife.

It has taken years of sustained and supported work to achieve the rich, and varied biodiversity which we now enjoy and which also delivers adaptation and mitigation measures in the face of the climate emergency.

If funding is withdrawn and farmers find themselves unable to continue with all the nature-based improvements they have been carrying out, it will not take long for the countryside to slip back into an unhealthy and biodiversity poor state, and reduce farm business resilience in a changing climate.

Nobody wants this scenario to evolve, but unless the government has a new scheme in place before the current AECS ends, a lot of the good which has been achieved throughout the country is likely to disappear and may take years to recover.

Now is the time for the government to treat biodiversity and nature as seriously as they do climate change.

Organisations like Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) have much to offer in the way of ideas and proposals for the government to consider, but time is running out and there needs to be a meeting of minds to ensure that there will be life after AECS.

Colin Strang Steel

Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN),