Dear Sirs,

I write in relation to the article which was published in The Scottish Farmer on 17th April relating to the extremely disappointing dispute which has arisen between the farmer led Suckler Beef Climate Group and the Civil Service.

The Scottish Government website states that the role of the civil service is to ”help the government of the day develop and implement its policies……Civil servants are accountable to ministers”.

Fergus Ewing, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism had the vision and foresight to task farmer led groups, with their practical and comprehensive knowledge and experience, to develop a framework to bring suckler cow production into line with our climate change targets and aspirations. Jim Walker and his able committee came up with a practical workable and warmly received report which met the approval of both the Cabinet Secretary and the First Minister. Job done……Many, many hours went into the report to come up with a workable solution which could be implemented by farmers and overseen by the various Inspectors.

But here lies the problem. The civil servants don’t like it. The civil servants who have no practical hands on experience or knowledge of our industry and have many other balls other than agriculture and more specifically suckler cows in the air ,would seem to have no idea how the beef industry, supply chains and rural communities work-all dovetailing into each other.

Their alternative solution is to cut the national herd by 300,000. A figure which has appeared with no justification, apparently plucked from the sky. This, they claim is the answer to cutting carbon emissions. Except it isn’t. Consumers will continue to eat beef because they enjoy it and can benefit from it nutritionally, especially grass reared Scotch beef. Scotland could end up importing inferior quality beef with all the air miles that goes with it whilst our civil servants seem comfortable with ignoring the carbon legacy that this beef has left behind because it’s been produced elsewhere-not in our backyard. Climate change is a global problem that you simply cannot punt off to the country on the other side of the world that’s more than happy to supply the demand for a product that you have culled.

This should not be a matter with two opposing sides. We should be working together to find a practical workable solution to protect our industry and make it climate change friendly while continuing to promote our beef as the best in the world, produced to the highest welfare and sustainable standards.

Some tweaking round the edges of the farmer led groups report might have been required but the brick wall which has been thrown up and the uninformed, callous and unforgiving proposal to cut a third of our herd is not the answer. It is offensively dismissive of the advice of those who know because not only can they talk the talk but they have walked the walk and learned how to overcome the many obstacles along the way.

It’s a very bizarre situation that we find ourselves in. Much worry and despair has gone into how Brexit and new trade deals will affect our beef industry but perhaps the biggest threat that we face is from within our own borders.

David Barron

Beef Farmer

Chair of Scottish Beef Association