A new Agricultural Transformation Programme will be at the heart of the Scottish Government’s plans to tackle climate change while still allowing for a profitable farming industry.
The measure and others were outlined in Holyrood on Tuesday (September 3) as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined her Programme for Government for the coming parliamentary year.
There were few details in her speech about how the initiative will be constructed but Ms Sturgeon said: “Land use including agriculture, forestry and peatland restoration will be consistent with progress towards a net zero carbon economy.”
Much of her speech, including sections on public transport, aviation and renewable energy was centred on creating a Scottish Green Deal aimed at achieving net zero carbon by 2045.
She also used the speech to call on Holyrood to allow her to pursue a second independence referendum.
She told MSPs that she would ‘seek agreement to the transfer of power that will put the referendum beyond legal challenge’.
On the Green Deal, Ms Sturgeon said a further £5 million will be invested in tree planting with the annual target moving up from 10,000 hectares per year to 20,000 hectares.
There was encouraging news on using statutory frameworks to force government bodies and local authorities to procure local and healthy food but this could be offset by restrictions on meat consumption.
School meal services should set maximum limits for the amount of processed red meat and increase the proportion of fruit and vegetables offered.
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said: “A new Agricultural Transformation Programme for farming and food production is seen as part of future rural support, but with work to begin this year, it has the potential to drive further reductions in on farm emissions while improving productivity and profitability.”
Regarding the plan to increase tree planting NFUS director of policy Jonnie Hall said: “Planting areas of a farm that are of marginal benefit to the business can provide a diversified income stream to sit alongside the clear benefits of shelter for livestock and improved biodiversity.
“What we would hope to avoid would be blanket afforestation, particularly on land with good agricultural value, as this would completely neglect the financial needs of hill farms and the communities around them.
Sarah-Jane Laing, director of Scottish Land and Estates added: “Offering more support to farmers and land managers to encourage innovation, productivity and a focus on sustainability will be key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and SLE welcomes the inclusion of a new Agricultural Transformation Programme to achieve this.”