Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board minutes: 3 November 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 3 November 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands
  • Martin Kennedy, President, National Farmers Union

Items and actions

Welcome and future ways of working

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands (Co-chair) welcomed everyone to the third face-to-face meeting of the Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board (ARIOB) in Dundee, thanking them for giving up their valuable time to support the Scottish Government’s development of future rural policy.

Chair invited the Board to indicate if there were substantive issues with the minutes of 24 August 2022 and, there being none raised, asked for any minor corrections be submitted directly to the Secretariat by email.

Ways of working

Before handing to co-chair for his welcome, the chair told the Board she was glad to receive feedback from some members at the end of September. Such is the importance and value of the ARIOB, if at any point members feel it is not working as it should, then we need to be flexible enough to change course. Therefore, Chair was keen to use this meeting as a reset and reiterated her appreciation to members for giving up both their time and expertise as part of this collaborative venture, noting that the process towards agricultural reform could not happen without that.

As a result, meeting structures will be revised going forward and officials will examine governance structures to ensure they remain appropriate, including the respective roles of the Academic Advisory Panel (AAP) and the Policy Development Group (PDG). Chair noted that a revised draft Terms of Reference had been circulated and asked members to feed back further comments.

Co-chair welcomed members and agreed with her comments on Board feedback and the need to reset. He felt that the Board could be better linked up, with the process becoming a little disjointed. Points about feedback not being acted upon or updated, were well made. Given the urgency of the process, it is a moving feast and, if there are better ways of working, both Chairs are receptive to further suggestions.

Discussion(s): terms of reference

Chair opened the floor to members for any immediate thoughts. It was queried whether there were plans to replace the two members have left the Board. Chair advised she is happy to consider that, and noted that the Terms of Reference (ToR) does allow for membership review, but her priority is to ensure a proper structure that all members are content with before adding to the membership. A further point made about inevitable membership changes given the Board’s planned longevity was noted.

There was wider acknowledgment that the work to which the Board contribute is complicated, and that the Board can only function properly if it has the opportunity to express the wide range of perspectives held within it, allowing officials to make informed recommendations to Ministers for decision. 


Building on a requested action point at the last in-person ARIOB meeting to improve communications to the industry, dissatisfaction around communications to the sector was raised again, with calls to make drastic improvements to these and provide more concrete information emphasising the continuation of the recommendations of the Farmer Led Groups.

Members were in universal agreement that comms should also be simpler as the messaging is getting lost in the complexity of the wider work. They suggested a one pager detailing: where we’re at, what we’re doing, where we need to get to.

  • it was agreed that after each meeting, a comms statement on behalf of the ARIOB would be issued to provide a read out prior to the minutes being published
  • in relation to communications within the revised ToR and the amendment that ARIOB members should assist in the dissemination of information to their stakeholders, it was pointed out that not all members work for industry organisations, and therefore do not always have the time or means to do so
  • there was also concern and confusion about what information is shareable
  • in response, officials agreed that there was appetite in the sector to engage, as demonstrated by the good attendance generally at the events to promote the Agricultural Bill consultation, but acknowledged the points made and undertook as an action to improve comms and to liaise with Jane Wilson (JW) and her team to address as a matter of priority

Policy Development Group/Academic Advisory Panel

It was noted that the functions of the PDG and the AAP required clarification and the links between ARIOB and those groups reviewed to ensure that the integration works better. While noting that the AAP had been meeting, there was some frustration that the ARIOB had not had sight of any minutes and feedback was patchy. The Deputy Chief Scientific Officer noted this point and undertook to ensure better feedback.

It was pointed out all three groups, ARIOB, AAP and PDG, are a valuable resource and should be taken more advantage of and better utilised to enable SG to have parallel workstreams to accelerate progress on the new scheme design, rather than being restricted to a linear process because these resources are not being utilised properly.

In closing this topic, Chair confirmed that further feedback via correspondence on meeting structure and approach would be welcomed.

Prioritisation and timeline of agri policy development and implementation

As previously shared with the ARIOB, the SG approach will set out different payment tiers in a framework (base, enhanced, elective). Compliance with Tier 1 activity stipulations and baseline conditionalities is a necessary precursor to accessing Tier 2 (and higher tiers for that manner other than forestry and peatland works) but otherwise it has no access restrictions other than the obvious option specific requirements. There was broad support for that, particularly as the ambition to be a sustainable and regenerative agricultural sector will ultimately be delivered through the enhanced payment mechanism. That enhanced payment will be open to everyone who can demonstrate what they’re doing for climate and nature.

The Government’s manifesto committed to shifting 50% of current direct area-based payments delivered under Pillar 1 (BPS and Greening) towards conditional payments under Tier 2 whilst the other 50% remain an activity-based income support under Tier 1. The new powers to make enhanced payments (which will do the heavy lifting in terms of climate and nature restoration) require the new Agricultural Bill and secondary legislation to be in place, and that will not be until 2026. It was pointed out however that the ambitions under Tier 2 need to be proportional to “easy access” and LMO/LMC-type approach and that it should not be a replacement for, and good uptake of, Tier 3 agri-environment measures. The current Ag bill allows only for simplification and improvements so there are constraints around how to effect that change, but officials think that shifting to that 50% in 2025 can be achieved via current schemes. Officials proposed that the priority is to address that, and then look at LFASS, BPS, SUSSS etc but there was some opposition to this. While the legislative timeline is immovable, Chair confirmed that she was adamant the period between now and introduction of the new systems be used to assist the industry in ramping up to be ready, and that the National Test Programme is designed to do that.

Between now and 2026, people need to be given time to understand what changes are taking place, which are mandatory and which are not, and encouraged to prepare to be able to take up the options under Tier 3 (elected). 

  • Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands will have an early opportunity in Parliament w/b 8 November to convey this approach as part of a Parliamentary statement on food security, and this will be followed up with sector-specific messaging
  • it has been heard clearly that this is exactly the sort of reassurance and clarity that industry are looking for, and the communications strategy will take account of this


Members broadly welcomed the Parliamentary statement as a chance to put down a marker on this work, particularly mid-consultation period and many remaining unclear as to the timetable. 

However, members were critical of the lack of detail about future payments, and the slippage in timescales, particularly around confirming base payments. Bearing in mind that enhanced payments are intended to help address climate change and biodiversity loss, members voiced concerns that delays could risk missing Government objectives and targets. Members stressed that the industry could not be held accountable for a failure by government to provide the necessary policy framework.

Several members voiced their disagreement about the proposal to shift 50% of current area-based direct payments to Tier 2 type conditions within the current system before the new scheme is ready. It was stated that this is not an effective use of resources as it would overcomplicate the administration of support packages in the coming years, and it would likely cause significant confusion within the industry. Resources should instead be focused on designing the new scheme and a smooth transition, leaving the current system as it is except for minor tweaks to schemes where this is needed.

Chair acknowledged the frustration, and was clear that she does not want to block progress but pointed out that at Government level, there is no clarity around budgets, and there are workforce controls so it is not possible to recruit all the staff needed. Officials added that the resources needed to develop and implement new measures were significant, and that they have to protect and ensure the uninterrupted running of the current system to make payments. It was pointed out that one of the things ARIOB is able to advise on is where resources could be deployed most effectively. 

Bearing in mind those fundamental constraints and the need to balance pragmatic delivery against policy ambition, and referencing the point about existing mechanisms offering flexibility to introduce conditionality now, it was agreed ARIOB be given the opportunity to feed back suggestions what could be done to make the biggest impact.

Knowledge intensification was raised as a fundamental issue: many farmers don’t know what they need to be doing and whether money can be taken from payments to fund such CPD and this should be set out in a strategic framework.

Potential barriers preventing farmers from beginning their journeys was discussed: why are many within the sector not making this transition? It was acknowledged that there are potentially major barriers to engagement that money cannot resolve including the lack of policy direction. How can we address market failure? It was noted that there are two projects underway by the Scottish Government and ClimateXchange, examining the last 50 years of studies on farmer behaviour change. The Board agreed that it would be good to hear an overview of their findings and an action was taken.

Members concurred that if base level payments are to be underpinned with a Whole Farm Plan, there has to be agreement on what that means for GHG emissions, biodiversity, climate so that it can incentivised it right from the beginning. Members reiterated the need to redefine what a Whole Farm Plan is with in the context of a future support framework and stressed that this discussion needed to be had as soon as possible.

Members suggested that the Policy Development Group explore existing mechanisms and examine how ambitious and how far/fast we can move within those parameters. An action point was taken.

Collaboration with non-SG bodies was suggested, with ScotEID cited as an example of a cost effective result of such collaboration. One member pointed out that that the Board provided feedback on AECS schemes back in April so this could be picked up again and perhaps using NatureScot to deliver AECS could be explored. 

The role of small producers in contributing to the Scottish Government’s Vision was raised again, with members discussing at the previous ARIOB that a smallholder scheme should be explored. An action was taken to explore a potential small producers’ scheme.

It was also pointed out that much of the Board’s discussion focusses on what policy measures can effect change, but the role of the market in driving change should not be overlooked, nor should it be forgotten that there are other markets being addressed which could be harnessed to help effect change.

One suggestion was that the evaluation phase of the Testing Actions for Sustainable Farming (TSF) be abandoned, and a renewed focus on implementing the FLG recommendations to deliver now within existing systems. Further, it was suggested, everyone be given the opportunity to get on-board immediately, rather than a handpicked few. Officials advised however that this smaller scale approach is the only way to establish running costs and identify IT and delivery requirements, but agreed that the evaluation could, and should be done in a simple, minimally onerous way, noting a point about existing research such as agri-ecological transition research providing some intelligence around enablers and barriers to uptake. 


  • members were in strong disagreement with the proposed timescale and disappointed with the lack of pace
  • officials explained that the legislative timescale could not be amended and that the introduction of the new scheme had to fit around the enforcement of primary and secondary legislation which was noted by ARIOB
  • a query was raised what guarantee the industry has that there won't be further delays associated with the legislative timescale. Chair gave her reassurance that this would not happen
  • noting the points about resource limitations and need for compromise, members stressed that efforts must however redouble to communicate useful information, including the delays, to industry as quickly and as clearly as possible to enable it to plan for the future given that the industry currently expects the new scheme to be in place for 2024/25
  • a plea was made that the Chair be clear in her statement to Parliament about what the future holds for farmers and crofters, and that the work being done builds on the foundations of the Farmer Led Groups
  • ARIOB members highlighted again that given resource constraints in SG, further effort should be made to better include and involve ARIOB members in the design approach of new scheme components, opining that ARIOB is a resource that is not being properly utilised at the moment
  • it was noted that the Consultation responses may offer a different view to ARIOB’s but as the Bill is concerned with enabling powers, it is unlikely the phased approach will be altered
  • the detail, which is what most businesses want to know about, will be part of the part of secondary legislation


Officials acknowledged the unpopularity of, and the limitations and complexities in the existing framework as a consequence of both EU regulations and 2018’s Stability and Simplicity legislation. However, until the new legislation is in place, what is done now needs to be done within that context of Stability and Simplicity. 

Going forward, we need to understand what the future should look like and assess the impact of potential outcomes, measures and activities using accurate data, and use this information to target support effectively. We also need to communicate this effectively. Who will carry out the activity to achieve the desired outcomes, and do people understand their role? 

The term “activity” was discussed at length at Dunfermline and it was noted that what it meant at the last CAP refresh is not what it means now. Terms such as “activity”, “simplification”, “eligibility”, “active farming”, “minimum” and “maximum” etc are interpreted differently. 



Members commented that some current activity requirements are not appropriate in that they enable access to agricultural support payments for businesses that may not be actively producing food. It was noted that a discussion is needed to properly define 'activity' within an agricultural context for the new scheme.

ARIOB were asked to provide input to the question of what “activity” means and whether it’s focussing on the action, or on the outcomes so that public funding can be applied appropriately.

To help inform the discussion, the Board asked about EU and WTO compliance limitations. It was confirmed that Scottish Government is committed to continued alignment with EU regs where practicable, and in terms of WTO, that is not a restrictive parameter as Scotland is well within limits. 

There followed some discussion on previous payments iterations and acknowledgement that with enhanced payments we will be recoupling payments that had previously separated in order to meet our targets on food production, climate and biodiversity. There was consensus that recoupling is about combining what we pay people to do with what we want them to do and that can be delivered with a Whole Farm approach.

On that basis, there was an acknowledgement that it was necessary to consider the relationship between the Tier 1 and Tier 2 levels holistically as Tier 1 is the gateway to Tier 2 to make the whole work. Officials reminded the Board that both tiers aim to reduce agricultural carbon emissions, increase biodiversity, maintain quality food production and increase rural development. The first tier is predominantly focussed on food production and rural development, and the second on carbon emissions and biodiversity. The message to farmers and crofters is that by producing commercial goods in a sustainable way it can ensure the business will remain viable and people can continue to live in rural areas. A further point was made that there are some things that the market should take care of and that public funding should not try and pay for everything.

A query was raised about what would happen if the future payment system uses scale-back to the area paid on under Tier 1 when defining the actively farmed area and how additional land not paid on under Tier 1 would be captured under Tier 2. If farmers are only paid on a proportion of their land due to livestock scaleback, will they only receive Tier 2 on the land paid for under Tier 1 and if so, does that mean that they do not have to achieve the Tier 2 outcomes on the land not paid on under Tier 1? A comment was made that achieving outcomes under Tier 2 likely results in direct and/or indirect costs to a business which increase across a larger area, and businesses could therefore not be expected to carry that cost on land that they do not receive any payments for.

Post-2025, there will be scope to split basic payments in future by reviewing regionalisation so will have to consider what we want to achieve, what land is eligible to achieve outcomes and what activity the sector wants on it. Therefore, going forward, we need to revisit the definition of activity and eligibility which will require detail on the interlinking of Tier 1 and 2 payments.

Crofting and small business

In terms of interventionist logic, it was pointed out that it was crucial to consider rural and socio-economic development, especially crofting and other smaller scale enterprises, and that it was essential to ensure these were not excluded from any system. Crofters have a regulatory burden placed upon them so they need help to meet that. It was discussed that consideration must be given to what might define activity on the hardest hills in the country, and those businesses not engaged in livestock. It was also noted that small scale food producers and market gardens produce a lot of food for their local and wider communities, and the 3HA rule currently excludes the smallest businesses. One member suggested the Smallholder Support Scheme, which could be light touch but deliver significantly and while it was noted that the pilot will assist in this work, Chairs agreed the scheme should be explored further. 

A repeat request was made to set up a working group to look at disadvantage support incl. LFASS and SUSSS and how such support might fit into the future scheme. It was suggested that this group should draw on expertise from ARIOB, PDG and AAP members, with ARIOB members including Claire Simonetta and Donald McKinnon. An action point was taken to establish this group.


Discussion turned to production and nature – that they shouldn’t be viewed as competing entities but conjoined. In other words, production shouldn’t drop because of biodiversity improvements. A note of caution was expressed that if the definitions are too prescriptive then it will allow people to “game” the system, eg, “slipper” farmers. It was discussed that data rather than anecdotal information is required for decision-making but acknowledged that, historically, previous support system weaknesses or failures have often been exploited. In that respect, it would be beneficial to establish what is happening under “activity”: public attitudes, barriers, enablers, climate and biodiversity issues, production aspects etc and an action was taken to have some research fed back to the ARIOB on this. 

In terms of food production, the Board asked what the food production targets were and were advised that Ambition 2030 sets out the ambition to doubling of the value of the sector by 2030. The document does not set out how that is done, but does commit to producing more of our food sustainably. The Board asked to be sent a copy of the document and to have food production tabled as a future agenda item.

A request was also made to commission modelling (from S Thomson and A Moxey) of impact of changes to regionalisation, redistributive payments (including capping and frontloading) and food production for Tier 1 based on ARIOBs preferred options for analysis (2, and 6) against the status quo, as fed back after the Dunfermline meeting.

The enabling Bill will establish the basics but the secondary implementing legislation will allow for the detail. Officials made clear the importance of pragmatism when spending resources, catering for the majority rather than attempting universal coverage unsuccessfully, while also rewarding people for good work already being done. Whatever we decide, there must be in-built flexibility to change course quickly, should that be required.

In summing up this item, the ARIOB agreed that it needed further information to help inform its recommendations and action points were taken as agreed.

Enhanced payments - future enhanced payment methodology

Further to being the subject of earlier discussion, officials set out the enhanced payment methodology as the engine room of future agri policy and were heartened to hear broad agreement on it from earlier Board comments. It is envisaged that everyone eligible for base payment can participate in enhanced without any additional criteria other than demonstrating delivery against biodiversity and climate requirements.

As the Cabinet Secretary has set out in Parliament, Government proposes to retain the current three region model until at least 2027 as the basis for the Base payment at which point it will be reviewed. Officials proposed that the exiting BPS payment mechanism be used as the basis for the calculation of the base and the enhanced payment from 2026.

Officials cautioned that thinking on this is very embryonic so no details available yet, but the thinking is that outcomes or actions based approaches, a menu of actions will follow (via FLG recommendations). The question now is that if aiming for 2026, can we use those actions and measure them as outcomes on farm? Are carbon and biodiversity audits an acceptable measure in real terms or would we still need an action-based approach, through funding, and does that lean into an outcomes-based approach?

Officials then set out some of the questions around setting payment rates, the answers to which will establish our principles right from the beginning:

  • will it be a simple multiplication in future?
  • a sliding scale of payments (gold, silver and bronze)?
  • one single blanket payment?
  • will climate and nature be considered separately or as a combined metric and enhanced payments will be combined?
  • how do we solve the problem that not all farming systems are as carbon intensive as each other?
  • would we be willing to allow businesses to net off any sequestration?

Officials acknowledged that the Whole Farm Plan (WFP) structure as presented in Dunfermline was unpopular with the Board but they were keen to assuage concerns as there is huge potential for the WFP to demonstrate delivery against food production, biodiversity improvements and climate goals. Is that still the right concept? Is it useful for articulating business planning? These are outstanding questions needing addressed.


The Board reminded officials that it had agreed the term ‘agreed standards’ should replace ‘basic standards’ and asked that this be noted for future.

Additionally, the question was posed as to whether the forthcoming SG biodiversity strategy would be at odds with what was recommended by ARIOB. Officials reassured that whatever those targets may be, enhanced payments will complement them through tailored delivery and in material terms we are already planning for that.

Whole Farm Plans

The up-to-date position regarding Whole Farm Plans (WFPs) was queried, with the Board reminding officials that the Board’s and officials’ views were at odds on the purpose and content. Succession planning was one topic which divided Board from officials, with officials advising that the reason for inclusion initially had been because this is an issue for the industry and is a subject which would be asked of any business from a legal perspective, with Fair Work First being an example. However, ARIOB’s views were clear that it should not be included and officials agreed that further discussion needs to be had about the WFP and it was requested that a sub-group with PDG and interested ARIOB members be convened to pin down the issue as a matter of urgency.


While it has been previously put to the Board that the enhanced payment will do most of the “heavy lifting”, some members warned that if the enhance payments are too complicated or do not offer sufficient funding in return for what is asked of farmers, then those businesses who can will take the base payment only and so getting the linkage and incentives right between basic and enhanced is critical. In addition, there are large swathes of the sector who may not have previously qualified for the base rate and we must do more to get as many involved as possible. For example, current eligibility for Agri Environment Climate Scheme allows farmers and land managers to claim, so there should be potential to allow those land managers (in the hundreds), to claim for eligible environmental activities.

Payments, actions and outcomes

The Board noted that it is difficult to really comment on payment calculations until the regionalisation issue and position on base payments is confirmed, and agreed that the inherent complexity of a land use system is unavoidable since some areas in receipt of low rates of payment are optimally suited to biodiversity improvement. Officials asked Board whether post 2026 enhanced payments should be based on / calculated on the basis of base payments which would mean that for someone with predominantly region 3 land these payments would be lower than the enhanced payment to someone with predominantly region 1 land. Concerns were raised with regards to the justification behind paying Region 2 and 3 farmers less for carrying out the same or similar type of Tier 2 activity as Region 1 given that depending on the option, management requirements or capital costs could be equal on both farms if not higher where Region 2 and 3 farms are in more remote locations. Examples were made which included species-rich grassland management and fencing off water margins. Officials agreed that this would need further discussion.

A key point which was noted was that payments will be capped due to obvious budgetary constraints, but the question is whether we continue with the current BPS/enhanced 50/50 approach and evolve from that, or try and find a different way. The Board discussed that, per earlier discussion, Tiers 1 and 2 need to be linked, but there is the opportunity here to make the system work better, eg if the Working Farming Plan demonstrates lots of biodiversity activity businesses could receive additional payments, and that there would be greater flexibility to adjust ratio of payments in future if that was what was agreed.

Officials reassured members that if businesses are already at what might be deemed “gold” standard, the mechanism should be there for a full, enhanced payment. Those performing at the required standards should not be penalised for not improving further and officials committed to rewording that section of the paper.

Discussing actions v outcomes, the Board discussed that it was not always appropriate to apply conditionality to outcomes and penalise businesses because of factors beyond the business’ control, eg weather, geographical differences, environmental conditions, neighbours’ activities etc. It was pointed out that the FLGs recommended an outcome-based approach and that some things lend themselves more to that in the longer-term rather than an immediate result, so perhaps it is more about demonstrating that the actions have been taken which will deliver that outcome (which would have to be defined). There was agreement that we should start with an actions-focussed approach and move to a blended actions/outcomes one, but a solely outcomes focussed one would be problematic.

RESAS officials advised that they are letting a contract to assess which measures in the Testing actions for Sustainable Farming workstream can be meaningfully tested through actions/outcomes, and will look at improvements, baselining and mitigating factors. This will provide the Board with a valuable evidence base and without pre-empting the outcome, it is envisaged that it is likely to recommend a hybrid model, taking measures on a case-by-case basis.

In terms of carbon audits, there was acknowledgement that tools currently deployed are inconsistent and data often not robust enough. Officials confirmed that work through the National Test Programme will consider whether to mandate a CA tool, irrespective of payments. Data that flows into measurement systems will be monitored to inform how well a business is doing and simultaneously remove the so-called gaming element of the system.


  • summing up the discussion, officials noted that the ARIOB held a range of views rather than having a consensus, and so officials will consider and revert to the Board
  • key points were noted about keeping things simple, and, notwithstanding the earlier expressions of frustration at the slow pace of development, were keen that changes were not too radical or implemented too quickly as large-scale uptake is widely agreed by the Board to be of utmost importance

Enhanced payments - list of measures and next steps under Testing Actions for Sustainable Farming

Officials were pleased to inform the Board that they had almost 1000 survey respondents, with 85 of those confirming they will participate further, providing a good sample of farmers and crofters for ongoing Testing actions for Sustainable Farming work. Overview and summary reports will be published with further analysis of response currently being undertaken.

Among the key messages coming in were that larger businesses are more likely to carry out soil analysis and animal health and welfare improvements, largely as these are business driven decisions (eg supply chain drivers) better justifying the expense, and as opposed to regulatory tasks such as carbon audits. Respondents cited knowledge and funding as key requirements of such work.

On the scaled list of measures, a significant amount of revision has taken place since presented to the Board in Dunfermline, with NatureScot and AAP feeding in. It is now a comprehensive list, down to 90+ measures, gathered from an evidence-base, assessed on how these contribute to an outcome, and packaged to allow for ease of navigation.

In terms of general principles, officials outlined that the bar has been set low to bring people in and help them move through the support packages.

Co-chair hoped not to have a slimmed down version of Agri Environment Climate and that options could include weighting depending on farm type, with specific values attached to each measure to allow businesses the choice of how to meet any threshold. Others agreed with the weighting proposals, noting that the list was still a work in progress given the lack of “gold” options for the pig and sheep sectors. Others noted that their feedback from the Summer was not reflected within the updated document. Officials commented that testing is part of the process, and we are not yet at the universal implementation stage so any weighting and/or thresholds are to be determined so that continued feedback from members is invaluable. Due to difficulties by some members accessing the list before the meeting it was agreed that feedback on the options, their contents and the proposed gold/silver/bronze structure would be sought/accepted at a later date after the meeting.

Moving onto the second phase, officials outlined the next five stages:

  • is the user-testing easy to understand and is your farm appropriate?
  • on-farm testing and activity
  • knowledge exchange
  • social research
  • data outcomes and metrics

This second phase will include around sixty participants, a representative sample with scaled list of measures to test out some of the measures in an agile (iterative) format to ensure the same questions aren’t being repeated.

Ultimately, the aim is that user testing will help adapt, cut down and make the menu user friendly. Findings from this phase will refine measures based on delivery practice on the ground.

Knowledge transfer will assist with informed decision making, with farmers and crofters utilising existing networks. That will be followed by social research to see how farmers are getting on, including data collection, identifying barriers to success, and whether there are opportunities to do more.


Members welcomed the good industry engagement with the survey, and while noting officials’ confidence that there should be good results from social research (which the Board welcomed) on a representative sample of 60 participants, there were concerns about a slimmed down pilot running over the next few years with only a few options to test. It was made clear that in terms of knowledge exchange and transfer, in practice, this was farmers learning from each other and that early adopters are good culture carriers and should be encouraged. It was suggested that officials might consider how best to assist those early adopters to help their peers along the way.

However, contrary to officials’ intention to set the bar low, some members felt that it was actually set too high: there were insufficient options to bring in everyone, and some of the options not implementable at large scale.

There were concerns over whether SG had sufficient resources to support this trial rather than deploying to the development of the new scheme design, and it was suggested that resources should focus on those elements which are truly unknown or untrialed.

A view was offered that if measures designed by experts will deliver, can’t they be electronically modelled, including drawing on data obtained from previous schemes, trains and on-farm programmes, rather than practically done, thus taking less time and saving money? Is on-farm analysis the best use of Government resources, especially if engaging with farmers who are already doing much of what is proposed? Officials cited the need to have that conversation with farmers, asking them what help is required, and advising them that the majority of measures will be money saving, and money earning, as well as environmentally beneficial.

An option that might be helpful would be to have a questionnaire to the whole industry to ask people about specific options and probe with follow-ups as to why certain options are less popular, honing that shared experience. Growing networks is hugely important.

It was also suggested that officials utilise the monitor farm programme which is funded by Scottish Government.

During the discussion on T2 enhanced measures, following a concern raised by a member regarding accessibility by non-farmers to some Tier2 measures such as water margin management, it was agreed that it might be appropriate for a few measures to be claimable either under Tier 2 or Tier 3 ie appear under both menus. Stepping back to consider the Tiers holistically and ensuring objectives, linkages and inter-dependencies at a strategic level was urged, to avoid a siloed approach.

The Board noted that what is being proposed is to trial a Whole Farm Plan which holistically addresses food production, climate and biodiversity challenges, and that approaches will vary from farm to farm. The analysis should be looking at what businesses should be doing but aren’t and how to encourage them to do the harder options that have biggest outcome results. 

Additionally, we should be learning from methods that we know make are making a difference. Other countries such as Northern Ireland have seen up to 80% farmer behavioural change from their pilots. 


  •  the board were pleased that there was such a good response to the survey and undertook to provide feedback on the draft list of measures
  • several board members reiterated their request to consider an alternative modelling and historic data-based approach instead of the proposed trial, in order to better focus resources elsewhere
  • all agreed the criticality of farmers feeling that they are part of the change if this is to be successful

Action points and any other business

A list of actions raised at the meeting was read out for the Board to confirm:

  • provide advice to ARIOB around:

    • enablers and barriers to regenerative systems (education, equipment etc) based on real life experiences
    • potential impact on food prices from changes to agricultural support
    • impact of changes to regionalisation and redistributive payments (including capping and frontloading) and food production for Tier 1 based on feedback from ARIOB on preferred options (2 and 6) for analysis against status quo per para 46
    • behavioural change: provide update and advice on Scottish Government and ClimateXChange projects, and on studies on farmer behaviour
    • analysis of a potential smallholders scheme for small farm businesses and crofts
    • analysis on disadvantaged payments and options for Less Favoured Area Support Scheme
    • activity: what is the evidence around activity and are there still issues (e.g. ‘slipper’ farmers). If so, what is the scale of these issues
    • what conditionality could be introduced within existing schemes
  • officials to set up meeting to discuss Whole Farm Plans - to include PDG and interested ARIOB members
  • establish a Disadvantaged Payments subgroup per para 43
  • issue a communication on behalf of the ARIOB to provide a read-out of the meeting prior to the minutes being published in due course

Checking in with the Board on the new approach to meetings, officials were pleased to hear that this had been a good start but we must maintain momentum.

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