Suckler Beef Climate Group Programme Board minutes: February 2021

Minutes from the fourth meeting of the Suckler Beef Climate Group Programme Board (SBCGPB) held on 22 February 2021.

Attendees and apologies


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

Scottish Government Officials

  • Andrew Scott
  • Eddie Turnbull
  • Janice Smith
  • John Kerr
  • Ramona Branza
  • Simon Fuller
  • Tracy McIntyre

Secretariat (Scottish Government Officials)

  • Alistair Prior
  • Derek Wilson
  • Elizabeth Bauld

Items and actions

Welcome and Introductions

Fergus Ewing welcomed everyone to the meeting, emphasising the importance of the farmer led approach to policy development and the need for us to get the job done on suckler beef by inviting farmers to apply to a beef scheme in mid-March (properly funded from Bew money).

Previous minutes and actions

Jim Walker invited the Group to note that the minutes of the last meeting had been published and agreed.  He noted that there had been a lot of meetings and a lot of work undertaken by all concerned to enable the Suckler Beef Climate Scheme up and running by March.  He reminded members that there was much work still be done over the coming weeks and months.

Update on enrolment

Eddie Turnbull stressed that his focus was on enrolment between now and March.  He went on the say that the platform created for enrolment would need to focus on suckler beef for the moment as the other Farmer Led Groups (FLG) had yet to report and that due to timings delivery would be a minimum functional product.  He noted however that it should enable other farmer led groups to enrol in the future.  Eddie’s team have adopted an iterative approach to design and delivery as the policy framework develops.  The Board agreed that this was the agreed approach to take.

Janice Smith then presented a detailed update on the enrolment process


The follow up discussion focused on data handling, access and sharing around scheme management and implementation:

  • Quickest way to do handle data collection for enrolment was through the RPS environment as they already have the log in information for applicants.  It was suggested that if Scot-EID was doing enrolment then the passing of data would be time consuming and complex.  Scottish Government intend to work with Scot-EID and others on verification (post enrolment) and are scoping that work at the moment.
  • The broader framework of data sharing is key as is the design of the solution that supports that.  Data collected should be available to all concerned.  However Scottish Government is someway away from detailed design on that as the data is distributed.  Scottish Government was clear of the need to produce something that gives value and is accessible to all parties concerned, including beyond  compliance with CAP rules.
  • Work has already begun; e.g. cataloguing of data, investigation of data sharing agreements.  The Scottish Government  are clear that any solution should be in agreement with the principles set out in the suckler beef report.
  • It will be important that anything undertaken for suckler beef is linked to what comes out of the other farmer led groups as there will invariably be a clear set of commonalities around data.  This does not stop us from taking forward work on suckler beef.
  • Need to be clear about operational data and metrics used.  Data needs to be as agile as possible.  Data for audit and inspections is not agile, we need to make sure this does not impact on operational data.  Need for appropriate data sharing principles and solutions are understood.  The prize is to provide that other set of data in an easily accessible and rich form and encourage 3rd parties to develop solutions on top of that.  We need to design this right.
  • The Suckler Beef Climate Scheme provides the basis for a single scheme across all sectors with  different eligibility criteria for folk, but we need a narrative so that participants know what’s coming down the line.  It is also important that we understand principles around participation and the use of data.
  • Need to learn from beef efficiency scheme, clear communication around data expectations essential.
  • In terms of user journey, single sign on for the scheme will be important,  but appreciate it is complex. 

Biodiversity options for SBCS

Claudia Rowse provided a summary of the board papers (papers 4.2-4.5) noting that work was continuing at pace to develop baseline audit proposals.   Proposals were building on NatureScot and partners work with over 70 farmers over a two year period.

The Board welcomed progress to date and noted the following observations:

  • This is a very complex area and science continues to adapt as we are looking to develop and therefore flexibility is important.
  • Need to ensure that we are asking for the right level of details and precision  from farmers (enough data being captured but not too complex).
  • Need to determine what support is required to enable participants to carry out audits.
  • Need to understand what audit, inspection and verification procedures would sit behind any audit.  It was noted that a measured approach would be welcome but separate workstreams would need to be established to work this through.
  • Was noted that consideration needs to be given to those who wish to see biodiversity improvements but are constrained by the actions of their neighbours/landscapes. It was also noted that there may be barriers for certain farming types who need agreement and co-operation (such as common grazing).
  • Baselining audits were important and should apply to all participants.
  • It was important that Communications on biodiversity audits and plans were fully thought through and are clear so that participants know exactly what they are signing up to through enrolment

Scheme development post enrolment (Jim Walker to introduce)

It was noted a meeting of the Farmer Led Groups chairs, chaired by Andrew Scott, and attended by Jim Walker had taken place on 19th Feb.  The following points were made.

  • There is a general consensus of having one overall scheme, and whilst one element may be able to launch sooner than others, it was vital that an agreed joint narrative covering all sectors was essential for any pre-election communication.
  • All FLG chairs have been asked to send in views and proposals on 3 important themes in the next week to help determine next steps i) how best to build integration to future schemes (i.e. commonality, baselining, payments) ii) what resource requirements might be for each sector , iii) views on how wider stakeholder engagements
  • In a post CAP world, the opportunity to be flexible should be adopted as we look to build schemes.

Communications and messaging

Sarah Millar updated the group on the communications strategy, suggesting it should have a focus on the vision (what we want to communicate), endorsement and marketing (to drive sign up.)

Sarah suggested we need to be in control of the messaging,  be able to explain how the scheme sits alongside other schemes and put out as much information as possible.  Sarah was clear that people who want to  to sign up to any scheme pre-election  will need to fully understand what they have to do in terms of compliance/data etc once they are signed up. Lessons need to learnt from the roll out of the Beef Efficiency Scheme.

The communications strategy is looking to include a media briefing followed by podcasts & media coverage and guidance.  This is on-going work, with the sub group coming back together to explore.


  • Agreement that ongoing discussion with  the other farmer led groups continue and a joint narrative can be agreed..
  • Communications needs to be clear. We need to have clearer messaging around the fact that we are starting off of with suckler beef as part of a wider scheme and it is not an independent one. Lack of clarity will be confusing to farmers. .
  • We have to be able to provide as much detail as we can but recognise this is an ongoing journey and that this is a work in progress.  
  • Farmers will want to know the impact on their wider payments.
  • We need one communications plan between Gov’t and industry, setting out the road map from day 1.

Action: Tracy McIntyre to discuss communications & engagement with Sarah Millar.

Business Support and advice

Andrew Lacey suggested that advisors need to know the hows & whys around the launch of the scheme, if they don’t get it then the farmers won’t be able to get it either.  Advisors need to be advocates for the scheme.

Andrew then presented a summary to the board on what support & advice for FLG work could look like based on inputs received  from many interests.  Overall conclusions were that advice should be less prescriptive and more flexible with measuring of outcomes measured alongside measuring impacts of advice. His view was that people value what they pay for, subsidised advice is not necessarily best.

Action: Andrew Lacey to prepare a paper to the board summarising position.

Any other business

Jim walker suggested we should try to get one more meeting before launch, with that meeting focusing on the detail we need and communications.

Action: Scottish Government to arrange a meeting for early March.

Action: Jim Walker to speak to Andrew Scott.

Members speculated about what happens post launch, as this board would be really important for developing future policy.  It was suggested that this group should be developed into wider  group, which takes forward outputs from other farmer led groups.

Fergus Ewing closed the meeting, thanking everyone for an interesting meeting.  He suggested that the group meet in a fortnight and agreed that an implementation board for the overall work was required (post-election).  He accepted that this is a dynamic process, and that do not have all the answers.  Whatever we do we need to ensure that we keep things simple and not overly burdensome from launch. 

Date of next meeting

Early March 2021 (TBC)





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