Sir, – Congratulations to the SAYFC-led group on their excellent, wide-ranging letter in last week’s issue of The Scottish Farmer.

The threat to livestock farming, especially sheep and suckler cow sectors, from the commitments made at COP26 are obvious. National targets are important, but they encourage a simplistic, sectoral approach such as large-scale afforestation and reduction in ruminant numbers.

We are facing multiple inter-related problems – potentially devastating climate change, loss of the biodiversity which enriches our lives as well as ensuring resilience in natural systems, threats to food security and the health of the rural economy.

These can only be tackled by changes in land use and production methods at individual farm level – whole farm plans where the needs of the business and the needs of the environment are brought together, backed by appropriate government incentives.

The agricultural sector has made much of the supremacy of the farmer-led approach and these groups have done good work, but that should not tip into arrogance. Farmers who know their own land and business best should be in a good position to sketch out an integrated whole farm plan but will need independent technical and specialist advice.

We should also be looking beyond the march dyke. If we are to get the best biodiversity outcomes, we need to be willing to work collaboratively with neighbouring land managers at a landscape scale.

We have to counter the simplistic quick-fixes with effective grass-roots (literally) planning at farm level and do it soon.

Joan Mitchell


Newton Stewart.