Suckler Beef Climate Group Programme Board minutes: November 2020

Minutes from the first meeting of the Suckler Beef Climate Group Programme Board (SBCGPB) held on 26 November 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
  • Tim Bailey, SAOS
  • Pat Lambert, Farmer
  • Steven Thomson, SRUC
  • Andrew Moxey, Pareto Consulting
  • Claudia Rowse, NatureScot
  • Neil Wilson, IAAS
  • Scott Walker, NFUS
  • Andy McGowan, SAMW                                       

Scottish Government Officials

  • Eddie Turnbull
  • Andrew Scott
  • John Kerr
  • Tracy McIntyre
  • Simon Fuller
  • George Burgess
  • Derek Wilson


SG Officials -

  • Alistair Prior
  • Elizabeth Bauld
  • Janice Smith


  • Bob Yuill

Items and actions

Welcome & Introductions

Fergus Ewing opened the meeting, thanking the Suckler Beef Climate Group (SBCG) for the huge amount of work done.  He also thanked SRUC for the outstanding amount of work undertaken to support Jim Walker and Claire Simonetta in their work. 

He reinforced the need for this group come up with ways to combine food production, maximising  emissions reductions and enhancing environmental performance.

Fergus Ewing noted that board members had been chosen for their knowledge and expertise and that it was particularly important that all members work collaboratively to identify practical solutions that can and will be adopted by the sector.

SBCG report overview

Jim Walker set out his thoughts for transforming the work of the SBCG into a scheme that can be put in place in 2021. He was in no doubt of the challenges ahead for the sector to meet its climate change obligations, stressing that we cannot wait but recognising that the farming industry itself is ready for change.  He also acknowledged that funding was going to be really tight going forward, and the fact that it was imperative for the sector to be more productive and as efficient as possible whilst meeting climate change targets. 

He went on to say that the work of this group was an opportunity to try something different, to be flexible, nimble, quick on our feet, to be able to learn lessons and apply them. 

Draft Terms of Reference  - discussion & agreement

The group agreed the draft Terms of reference without any amendments.


Steven Thomson (SRUC) and Andrew Moxey (Pareto Consulting) offered key messages from the already significant amount of work they have done in this area.

Claudia Rowse (NatureScot) offered insights into the scope for biodiversity to feature within a future Suckler beef Climate Scheme.

Tracy McIntyre and Eddie Turnbull (Scottish Government) presented an overview of  Scheme design processes.


The group discussed what needs to happen next.  The key challenge being what does this project need to look like, how do we best utilise the resources we have?

  • Critical issues such as: Eligibility criteria, simplicity, data (collection, submission, ownership, security, access), audit, inspections need to be bottomed out.
  • Need to develop specific objectives/policy interventions which are consistent with the forthcoming climate change plan.  That will be basis for our targets – and the extent to whether we are aiming for an ideal or not.  We then need to see how the industry fits into this and how we recruit people into the scheme – what we pay for, how we set up the system to pay for that.  We should take stock of this before the next meeting.
  • Need to demonstrate Value for Money, and avoid tying the scheme to animal numbers.  We need to have options brought forward for consideration with advice on pros and cons of each option.
  • We need to consider possible changes to the herd, for example, whether scheme implementation would lead to greater self-sufficiency (less imports) or  conversely more imports if herd numbers drop.  This piece of work should analyse.  It would be useful for the group to commission a piece of work on this, analysing the economic, environmental and climate change impacts of these scenarios including an analysis of consumer behaviour.
  • Whatever we do structure needs to follow strategy.  Need a strong programme manager to co-ordinate, break down the issues and deal with them.  Good, co-ordination, strong governance and  clearly defined scope will all need to be place from the beginning.


  1. Develop specific objectives in the context of the soon to be published Scottish Government Climate Change update plan for discussion at the next meeting. (Co-chairs)                   
  2. To put a project implementation team in place before the next meeting and  also consider the budget associated with project implementation. (Scottish Government)
  3. Undertake a data mapping exercise and  pull together a team to identify baseline data requirements with a view to making recommendations about the database (e.g. where it sits, who owns it, who has access to it and how it would operate) (Andrew Moxey, Claire Simonetta, Scottish Government, SAOS and SRUC).
  4. Look at the farmer facing scheme elements (eligibility criteria, management options etc ) and make recommendations to the group about how the scheme can be implemented.  Also, develop a strategy for encouraging producers to join the Scheme. (Pat Lambert, Sarah Millar, Scott Walker and Claire Simonetta)

Any Other Business

Steven Thomson suggested the use of a shared space for the group, Scottish Government agreed to explore options.

Sarah Millar suggested it would be useful for there to be a whatsapp group for members and agreed to set this up.

Closing Remarks

Cabinet Secretary closed the meeting, stating that this group was a top priority and will be resourced.  He also reminded the group of the need for the scheme to have clear criterion that we can demonstrably achieve.

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