Suckler Beef Climate Group Programme Board minutes: December 2020

Minutes from the second meeting of the Suckler Beef Climate Group Programme Board (SBCGPB) held on 21 December 2020.

Attendees and apologies


  • Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism (co-chair)
  • Jim Walker, Farmer (Co-chair)
  • Claire Simonetta, Farmer
  • Alan Clarke, QMS
  • Sarah Millar, QMS
  • Pat Lambert, Farmer
  • Steven Thomson, SRUC
  • Andrew Moxey, Pareto Consulting
  • Claudia Rowse, NatureScot
  • Neil Wilson, IAAS
  • Scott Walker, NFUS
  • Andy McGowan, SAMW                                
  • Bob Yuill, ScotEID/SAOS
  • Andrew Lacey, SRUC

Scottish Government Officials

  • Derek Wilson
  • Simon Fuller
  • John Kerr
  • Kirsten Beddows
  • Ally McAlpine
  • Eddie Turnbull
  • Tracy McIntyre
  • Andrew Scott

Secretariat (Scottish Government Officials)

  • Alistair Prior
  • Elizabeth Bauld
  • Janice Smith


  • Tim Bailey, SAOS
  • George Burgess

Items and actions


Jim Walker thanked members for the work undertaken since the last meeting.  Fergus Ewing echoed this, thanking everyone for the work done so far.  He told members about progress on the remaining farmer led groups, including the industry group on pigs and the Andrew Moir led arable group which had its first meeting last week.

Fergus Ewing added that he expected to announce the chairs of the Dairy/HNV Climate Change Groups very soon.  Both groups will be building on the legacy of the beef group where there is so much to draw upon.

Fergus Ewing stressed the need for swift action on suckler beef, adding that this is a group with a job to get a scheme up and running quickly, given the need to act now to cut emissions.  He was clear that recommendations from this group for such a scheme needed to be:

  • Practical (easy to implement) in the sense that it can be delivered by farmers and administered by officials.
  • Substantial and ambitious, with as many beef farmers as possible signing up.
  • Pitched in the right way, people need to be incentivised to sign up but this needs balanced with the desire not to over compensate. 

Fergus Ewing added that we need a substantial budget to make this work, with the group advising on the most appropriate delivery mechanism.  Suckler beef is in the lead, and has the biggest need to cut emissions. 

He finalised his remarks saying that to keep momentum going in advance of March, we need a report before Christmas recommending and outlining options for a transition scheme for sucklers for 2021 and 2022. Scot Gov could then consider this in the early New Year.

Updates and presentations

Kirsten Beddows (Scottish Government) presented on the recent Climate Change Plan update

Janice Smith (Scottish Government) set out the design and development approach being adopted by Scottish Government to put in place scheme architecture

Andrew Moxey and Steven Thomson presented a summary of discussions on the data workstream.

Sarah Millar updated the group on work to date on farmer facing scheme elements/scheme implementation.


The group reflected on the updates and presentations

  • The experiences of Scot-EID as a data integrator was cited with BVD as a good example of the approach to more integrated data, where trend analysis for beef farmers is really important.  Scot-EID is agile with mapping systems at farm level and experienced at developing things very quickly, for example in response to disease outbreaks. Need to be clear about design authority role around this for services and for data firstly for beef but then more broadly – for example, as we start to incorporate the data requirements from the other farmer led agriculture sector groups and if we start to pull in biodiversity etc. data in addition to Scot-EID.  Who owns this?  We also need to be clear on approach to data collection, data holding/sharing arrangements and standards.
  • We are fortunate in the beef sector of having herd metrics with agreed standards already, the difficulty comes down to management activities and how  compliance is demonstrated to government (assuming government is enforcing or paying for activities rather than outcomes).   We need to make sure we have all this taken into consideration – understanding the standard and who owns the standard. 
  • For example, Scot-EID sign up could be predicated on permission to share with 3rd parties, they have a long history of dealing with those issues – and engaging with information commissioner too.  Essentially there are existing protocols in place through Scot-EID, but we need to be clear on the purpose (which should be narrowly defined), where data resides and who manages that.
  • We need to be clear that this scheme is not an add on, but the start of a clearly defined pathway to a simpler more effective support mechanism for Scottish farmers focussing on food production, climate change mitigation and biodiversity improvements.

Discussion - What does transition year one look like?

  • Need to focus on conditionality – for 2021 can we design something that this is not an additional scheme but the start of the a process that will replace the existing architecture over time, including how everyone might link in with Scot EID etc.
  • Presentations have highlighted that we can get going soon using existing resources with a smooth transition in year 1.  We could capture current Beef Efficiency Scheme (BES) participants as well as additional progressive beef farmers with the minimum scheme requirements of the suckler beef scheme as a starting point. 
  • We need to communicate that this is a developing/evolving scheme so that we can manage expectations.   
  • We need guidance that is dynamic, practical and simple.
  • We should learn lessons from Sustainable Agriculture Capital Grant Scheme (SACGS) and offer funding for capital items e.g. for slurry/nitrogen management.
  • We need to be cognisant of the work of other farmer led groups and the need for common entry for all sectors.  We need to avoid multiple plans and bureaucracy. This is a risk in the design of this scheme and needs to be considered.
  • This needs to be one scheme for all farmers with common minimum requirements and a menu of management options for different farm enterprises.  We want farmers to be more self-reliant rather than on externals telling them what to do or doing things for them.
  • We need to remember there are good advisers and vets out there that effectively support businesses.

Biodiversity update (Claudia Rowse & Claire Simonetta)

Claudia and Claire have been working to identify actions over and above GAEC and have prepared a draft paper.  A new  app is being developed  as part of a pilot on an outcome based approach.  NatureScot are only 3 months into this work and would welcome an opportunity to update the group on this.  The app looks very promising, although it may come too late for the initial rollout of a Suckler Scheme in early 2021.  It was acknowledged that the Biodiversity minimum requirement is not straightforward as need to ensure that we do not duplicate effort with other schemes and provide farmer with the tools to use on farm alongside continuous personal development.

Future Advisory Service update (Andrew Lacey)

Andrew Lacey presented on his paper (Paper 2.3), outlining seven areas where advisers could help.  He stressed that need to set the overall direction, have a clear plan and acknowledge that this is year 1 of 10 – we need a clear plan


The Group reflected on the Advisory Service update.

  • QMS has established sustainable red meat action groups – 8 groups around the country with potential to upscale. 
  • A Professional Sheep Advisers Scheme is under development and worth exploring.
  • It was highlighted that advice that is free is not valued by the sector.

RESAS feedback on Group proposals (Simon Fuller/Ally McAlpine)

Soils database (Paper 2.1)

RESAS will take the proposal on soils database to the other groups to get their views and inputs.  They are waiting on JHI to come back with final draft on proposals.

International Comparisons of Beef Emission Intensity (Paper 2.2)

The Paper shows how far down the curve we are on a Scotland wide basis, it shows what we need to look at much more in a Scottish context, for example we need to dig deeper and get Scotland wide relevant data and need to look at socio-economic work (alongside GHG work) to see where this is at (building on previous work).  RESAS has a project in train with SRUC to look at data in Scotland, whether that work will allow  comparisons to be made at international level remains to be seen.


  • It would be good for the work to focus on 3 countries for further exploration, Ireland, Brazil and Poland.  RESAS suggested that there are not huge GHG differences within Europe, but was certainly the case for Brazil. 
  • Methodologies of measuring GHG inconsistent (Brazil may not be so different from Europe as we think).  RESAS and SRUC to discuss further. 
  • How do we map soils using analytical data from the scheme?  RESAS agreed a systematically methodology for collection and use of data key was something that will be discussed with JHI.


Neil Wilson will offer an e-update to members on work of banks on GHG emissions and farming.

Summary and agreed action points

  • Continue with the couple of workstreams in Scottish Government on Beef scheme/service related design and broader data/other groups  and how that might develop into a single approach with all the variables. (Scottish Government)
  • Established subgroups to continue
  • Formalise/develop plan for data control and ownership – further meetings with data team. (Andrew Moxey, Claire Simonetta, Scottish Government, SAOS, SRUC)
  • Development of options/recommended approach on national suckler interim scheme that is practical, simple, deliverable (for both farmer and admin) Start mapping out framework for an interim scheme by end of this week (25th Dec) so that Scottish Government colleagues can consider before next group meeting.  (Neil Wilson, Pat Lambert, Sarah Millar, Claire Simonetta, Steve Thomson, Andrew Moxey)
  • Feed back to Andrew Lacey on his paper on advisory services. (All)
  • Discuss and develop thinking on the advisory/support mechanisms for introduction of the scheme.  (Sarah Millar, Neil Wilson and Andrew Lacey

Date of next meeting – 28th January 2020

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