New Rural Support Scheme development - evidence: outputs summary

This synthesis report covers twelve written reports providing evidence reviews, analysis, summaries and expert briefings on agriculture in Scotland to shape future policy to help deliver sustainable food production that tackles climate change and nature restoration.

W10 Protection of Peatlands and Wetlands – a potential new GAEC measure for Scotland

Authors: Steven Thomson, Keith Matthews, Dave Miller, Douglas Wardell-Johnson, Zisis Gagkas and Andrew Moxey

Ref: RESAS/005/21 – W10

The Report is available in the supporting documents of this publication.

Key Points

The Scottish Government are committed to enhanced conditionality for future agricultural support. As part of the transition to future agricultural support schemes there is an opportunity to help transition towards future schemes by introducing additional conditions (cross compliance) through existing support schemes in 2025.

The protection and enhancement of Scottish wetlands and peatlands offers potentially significant emission reductions and biodiversity improvements. The focus on peatland and wetland emissions has increased since national inventory methodology changes to the LULUCF to account for wetlands and peatlands moved LULUCF from a net sink of 5.4MtCO2e to a net source of 2.7MtCO2e.

A combination of actions across the proposed 4-Tier policy model could be used to seek protection and enhancement of peatlands, possibly in terms of Bronze/ Silver/Gold standards as suggested by ARE officials to ARIOB.

In particular, Tier 1 cross compliance and Tier 2 conditionalities offer opportunities to enrol a high proportion of relevant land. This reflects the fact that wetlands and peatlands are widely distributed across Scotland, albeit particularly prevalent in the existing Region 3 of the Basic Payment Scheme.

Tier 1 conditionality could take the form of restrictions on cultivation, drainage installation, stocking density, tree planting, conversion of permanent pasture on peatland to cropland, etc could be included. This would mirror inclusion of 'Protection of wetlands and peatland' within the new Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC2) applied under the Common Agricultural Policy, thereby helping to maintain alignment with EU regulations.

Tier 2 enhanced conditionality could then include blocking of hill drains, reduced stocking density, moorland management plans, restrictions on cultivations on peatlands used for cropping.

Tiers 3 and 4 could then include support for more capital-intensive restoration actions (e.g., revegetating bare peat) and more demanding on-going management (e.g., intermittent scrub clearance, more radical stock reductions).

In common with other specific policy objectives, the boundaries between different Tiers are not necessarily fixed, meaning that particular measures may switch Tiers over time.

Consideration of effects and potential consequences of any Tier 1 cross compliance or Tier 2 conditionality on common grazing peatland / wetlands would need careful consideration, since individual crofters may not have the capacity or abilities to manage common grazing peatland areas.

There is considerable expertise on peatland and wetlands within the Strategic Research Programme and a body of evidence (definitions, maps, etc) is available within the James Hutton Institute.



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