Suckler Beef Climate Group Programme Board minutes: January 2021

Minutes from the third meeting of the Suckler Beef Climate Group Programme Board (SBCGPB) held on 28 January 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
  • Ross Lilley, NatureScot
  • Sarah Millar, QMS
  • Scott Walker, NFUS
  • Steven Thomson, SRUC
  • Tim Bailey, SAOS

Scottish Government Officials

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

Secretariat (Scottish Government Officials)

  • Alistair Prior
  • Derek Wilson
  • Elizabeth Bauld


  • Andy McGowan, SAMW
  • Claudia Rowse, NatureScot

Items and actions

Welcomes and introductions

Fergus Ewing opened the meeting. He thanked the programme board for their work to date, commenting it must continue at  pace to ensure we address the climate change challenge and that officials are to do so.  Mr Ewing noted that any Suckler Beef scheme in itself will not deliver all the Climate Change reduction targets but it is crucial that work begins, noting  that the sector as a whole have recognised the requirement for change in the industry. Mr Ewing noted the pre-election deadline of Midnight 24th March and the importance to deliver in advance of this date. It was therefore vital that the board and officials continue to work to get the details right, notably in enrolment, data gathering, monitoring and measuring emissions reductions with the aim is to have agreements in place on these elements in advance of pre-election period to start the schemes in 2021/22 which must remain key the objective.

The importance of Biodiversity was also outlined, noting NatureScot have been of great help to the group.

Finally Mr Ewing noted that it was not his intention to reduce the level of livestock production in Scotland and would never be the aim of the Scottish Government.

Andrew Scott advised the group that the SG was working to ensure that outcomes could be achieved and that in earlier discussions with co-chair Jim Walker it was agreed that that more work was required as a matter of urgency of the financial mechanics of the scheme. He suggested the groups focus for this meeting should concentrate on enrolment and data collection and storage options. He noted that data handling and procurement and scrutiny should be blended together and brought forward in order to meet the deadline of 25th March.

Action – SG to arrange meeting week beginning 01 Feb with Co-Chair Jim Walker to discuss financial mechanisms and wider policy governance.

Jim Walker informed the group that productive meetings had been held with other industry groups, including retailers,  who expressed interest in the scheme. He outlined that he attended a meeting with the other farmer led group chairs at the beginning of the week, who were generally supportive of transition report put forward by this group. He noted the general likely direction  that banks and retailers will take, and their  attitude to farming, mentioning future lending decisions to businesses in agriculture could involve closer environmental and sustainability scrutiny. 

Jim noted that work continues at pace on biodiversity, with NatureScot working to coordinate the other environment bodies to discuss options and will provide further details in due course.

 Scottish Government proposals on detailed preparations for launch of Phase 1 of the SBCS (Scottish Government) & discussions on proposal to move through to Phase 2 and how to communicate with farmers quickly.

Tracy McIntyre spoke to the group from a scheme delivery aspect, followed by Eddie Turnbull who spoke through the potential mechanics of any delivery process. Areas highlighted included - A transition pathway, investigating the model and what the future model may look like:

  • Recognition that technology will be a key enabler in the scheme, staff and customers must know what is expected of them, avoiding misinterpretation and learning lessons from previous experiences.
  • Due diligence must be given to a number of considerations; pace, regulatory, value for money etc.
  • Recognition that what we are doing here is a step change from previous payment and loan schemes.
  • Robust processes and practices are a must, farmers to be clear on what is required of them.
  • Enrolment in one scheme with a number of phases for each sector to avoid losing coherence; a fundamental principle from the chairs meeting earlier in the week.
  • Need to ensure that RPID run “business as usual”, requirements are continued to be resourced and delivered.

Janice Smith then presented on current option appraisal work and possible delivery mechanisms for Phase one enrolment, highlighting the three options currently being considered; Existing RP&S capability, standalone capability and ScotEID.

The group reflected on the presentations, identifying; the pros and cons of the three enrolment options being considered. The need that regardless of any options and future systems, farmers must have access to collected data. The importance of ensuring that all future pathways proposed are agreed with wider sectors and groups.  The beef group will pave the way for other sectors to join,  this will be the medium and long term direction of policy.

Banks and supermarkets will eventually steer the industry in an environmental direction. The need to offer farmers a clear direction of travel, informing them that conditions will eventually become mandatory, messaging is important to avoid negative reactions. The need for SG to engage further with ScotEID and industry to ensure the most relevant and dynamic solutions can be delivered. The best long term technology and solutions for a one scheme approach need consideration. The March timeline in itself will play a factor in any optional appraisal work and clear evidence is required to justify and account for any decisions made.

Following discussions on the beef scheme enrolment options and the wider issue of the transition pathway for other sectors to join this approach, Jim asked the board and officials if anyone disagreed with the proposed future approach. There was unanimous support for the approach proposed by the board and a reaffirmation of the need to move to the implementation phase of the beef scheme as previously directed by the Cabinet Secretary.

Action – SG to continue to option appraise possible enrolment solutions and report to the group with a preferred enrolment route no later than 12th February.

Action – SG to arrange meeting with ScotEID as part of the option appraisal work week beginning 01 February.

Phase 1/2 advice/support - Discussion

Andrew Lacey outlined initial work and thoughts on the potential customer journey and what future farm advisory support might look to with regards to farmer led groups that could centre on the use of group working.  He noted that several meetings had been set up to discuss this further and that he would thereafter report back to the group on thought and recommendations. The group agreed that working with groups of farmers could be more beneficial than giving a blanket advice across the industry.

Action – Andrew Lacey to engage with group members and SG officials to map out proposals for future farm advisory services in relation to the farmer led groups.

Action – Implementation board with QMS in the lead to consider potential Communication strategy.  

Biodiversity options for SBCS Update – Ross Lilley 

Ross mentioned that NatureScot are trying to develop a range of measures to fit different farming systems, as is recognised that a one size fits all approach will not work. He mentioned in the context of starting on entry level which could be built on in 2024 for a more progressive range of measure to deliver climate and biodiversity. This is underpinned by basic envro-assessment for farmers to build on.

Action – NatureScot to provide draft proposals in due course.

There were no areas of other business covered in the meeting.

Fergus Ewing closed the meeting, reiterating team working between government and the industry will bring about solutions. He expressed thanks to all members for their continued work and  outlined that farmers want a clear lead,  and that there has been a positive response from industry so far.

Date of next meeting

22nd February 2021

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