Food production, climate change and biodiversity ‘vital’ in Scotland’s future agricultural support regime

Press Release

Fifty per cent of future farming subsidies should be ‘unconditional’ in order to maintain food security and thriving production in Scotland.

Scottish Land & Estates, the rural business organisation, today published an update to its #Route2050 ‘On Track for Rural Scotland’ strategy at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh. The document focuses on immediate asks during the transition period to 2025 and an outline of what rural support could look like beyond 2025.

During the transition period, SLE has asked for:

  • A review of the Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board (ARIOB) membership to make sure there is a broader range of experience;
  • Government to map clear and consistent minimum standards that carbon audit tools must adhere to;
  • The biodiversity assessment tool introduced more quickly to all farmers and land managers;
  • Reform of how the Rural Payments and Inspections Division engages with farmers and land managers;
  • The Scottish Government to accelerate the provision of continuous support in the form of accessible advice, knowledge sharing, and skills development;
  • The continuation of the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) and Capital Grant Schemes.

Mark Tennant, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said:

“It is critical that we address equally the three key elements of food production, climate change and biodiversity in designing Scotland’s future subsidy support regime, whilst ensuring that the rural economy thrives. We acknowledge that progress has been made, however a great deal of uncertainty remains. This uncertainty is making decision-making, investment, and long-term planning incredibly difficult for Scotland’s land managers and rural businesses.

“We need to ensure we preserve a critical mass in Scottish farming and maintain food production and that is why 50% of support should be unconditional for active farmers to act as a stability payment.

“Conditional payments, including capital grant scheme funding, should build on the work of the farmer-led groups and be used to achieve policy objectives around emissions reduction, animal health, increasing productivity, improving efficiencies, the use of technology, organic conversion, and support for new entrants, including women in agriculture.”

For the period after 2025, the organisation suggests:

  • Base payments in the form of a financial stability payment, based on land classification for those actively farming;
  • A next level of payments founded on an outcome-focused approach, with payments for services such as emissions reductions and resource efficiency;
  • A third layer of enhanced conditionality support, including options under an ‘AECS 2.0’ type scheme for improving biodiversity, carbon sequestration and wider natural capital provision.

Paul Richardson, Policy Advisor (Agriculture and Climate Change), said:

“Whilst there has been some progress on land use policy and subsidy support in recent years, the pace of change is not quick enough and there remains a vacuum of information, particularly from the Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board. That has created a great deal of uncertainty for the industry, with opportunities to implement change during these crucial years lost.

“We know that alongside food production, measures to reduce carbon and improve biodiversity will be extremely important in the future but the sooner we can get the detail of what will be required under the new support regime, the easier it will be for farmers and land managers to plan and invest for the long-term to ensure the viability of their businesses. We must work together to overcome the challenges holding back the development of agricultural policy and the future support framework in Scotland.”

Read the updated #Route2050