South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Spokesperson for Economic Development and Rural Affairs Colin Smyth has accused the Scottish Government of ‘dithering’ over plans to help reduce Scotland’s agricultural emissions.
The local MSP used an opportunity during Rural Affairs Portfolio Question Time in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday to ask Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands Mairi Gougeon about whether targets on reducing agriculture emissions will be met.
The question came following widespread criticism from the agriculture sector that the Scottish Government has not moved quick enough to set out what will replace the Common Agriculture Policy in Scotland when the UK reaches the post-brexit transition period at the end of 2024.
The Scottish Government has yet to set out proposals for the future of agricultural support in Scotland, only recently setting up an Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board to take forward proposals from five farmer-led groups. However, the new board has been given until next year to implement any initial proposals, prompting fears that further delays will make it more difficult to meet targets to reduce emissions.
Speaking in the debating chamber, Colin Smyth said: “I welcome the long-overdue establishment of the agriculture reform implementation oversight board and the proposals from the farmer-led groups, which I hope will be implemented.
“Given the Government’s dithering over the past few years, and the fact that the cabinet secretary said that a lot of the proposals will not be introduced until 2022, is she absolutely confident that we will, over the next few years, meet the targets for reductions in agricultural emissions that are set out in the climate change plan?”
Speaking after the session, Colin Smyth said: “Scottish agriculture already has some of the highest standards in the world, but the industry still needs to change if we are to have a chance of meeting our climate targets.
“By and large the sector recognises this, but as it stands the deck is stacked against them. Farmers and crofters shouldn’t have to choose between doing what’s right for the planet and doing what’s right under CAP rules.
“There is a huge amount of agreement among different stakeholders on the way forward and on the need to move quickly when it comes to changing the way we support the agriculture sector. The only ones dragging their feet are the Scottish Government, who seem to be in complete denial about the scale and urgency of change required.”