Suckler Beef Climate Scheme: final report

Final report from the Suckler Beef Climate Group on development and delivery recommendations for sustainable suckler beef production in Scotland.

3. Terms of reference

The Suckler Beef Climate Group was set up in early 2020 with the aim to come up with recommendations on how to develop a government-funded scheme aimed at climate-friendly suckler beef production over the course of several meetings throughout March. The following section outlines the terms of reference which were initially agreed and updated since then in line with the group's efforts to prepare a comprehensive document on a workable and practical scheme.


1. The Scottish Government has committed to take action on climate change with legally binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It has also committed to contributing towards biodiversity targets. It is important that agricultural businesses are supported to improve their environmental performance, whilst producing quality food for processing within the Scottish food and drink sector.

2. The Suckler Beef Climate Group will consider proposals for alternative mechanisms of support for the suckler sector to achieve:

  • Improved efficiency, productivity and profitability of beef produced from the suckler herd and the wider beef sector in Scotland;
  • Enhanced environmental contribution from the sector through identification of practical ways in which net greenhouse gas emissions of the beef sector can be reduced;
  • Mitigation of other environmental impacts of production and enhancing contribution to sustainable land use, especially soil health and grassland management.

3. The group should consider the financial implications of its proposals and consider the time-span over which any proposals should be implemented.

4. Separately to this work, the Scottish Government will consider what arrangements may be put in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for livestock farming in High Nature Value (HNV) areas.


5. The Suckler Beef Climate Group will develop proposals for a new scheme, taking account of:

  • Production based improvements focussed on:
    • Feeding
    • Breeding
    • Efficiency
    • Health improvements
  • Potential for capital investment improvements
  • Impacts on running costs
  • Supply chain improvements, in particular encouraging producer groups with the potential to improve market development
  • Grassland management including:
    • Fertiliser use
    • Grass mixtures
    • Soil improvement and health
    • Slurry and manure management
    • Carbon audits and actions
    • Liming

6. The Suckler Beef Climate Group may also offer advice with regards to the costs of the necessary actions and how these might be met, with an estimate of the budgetary implications of any support scheme that might be introduced.

7. The Suckler Beef Climate Group will provide a report to Scottish Ministers in March 2020 to setting out its conclusions to feed into the Scottish Government's Climate Change Plan 2018-30 update. The report should focus on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the suckler herd and recommendations on a support scheme that is required to deliver that.

8. Between April and September 2020, the financial implications of the group's recommendations are to be explored alongside the implications for delivery of any support package that is recommended.

9. The Suckler Beef Climate Group shall reconvene in autumn 2020 to further consider its recommendations in the light of the findings on financial and delivery implications described in paragraph 6 above.

Chair and Secretariat

10. The Suckler Beef Climate Group will be chaired by Jim Walker representing the industry, and will be supported by ScotGov officials.

Ways of working

11. The Suckler Beef Climate Group will take an evidence-based approach to its work, can co-opt the support of academics, industry bodies or others to aid its deliberations, and will acknowledge the work of others where appropriate.

12. The Suckler Beef Climate Group should build on the work of the Beef Efficiency Scheme (BES) and should consider the work of the Agriculture and Climate Strategic Group, the Farming and Food Production Future Policy Group, as well as reports on Climate Change and Agriculture from the WWF and Committee on Climate Change

13. The Suckler Beef Climate Group may consider recommending an ''opt-in'' scheme which might be developed into a more comprehensive scheme (that would last over a number of years) or a phased introduction of any recommendations it makes. Members may also wish to consider to what extent the group or individuals from within it could support implementation.

14. The work of the Scottish Beef Climate Group will be transparent, and meeting papers may be published on the Scottish Government website.


15. The Suckler Beef Climate Group will include female and male representatives from across the suckler beef sector.

16. All members of the group will be required to register their interests at the first meeting.

17. The membership is listed in alphabetical order below:

Group members

Alistair Davidson
Robert Fleming
Iain Livesey
Bruce McConachie
Debbie McGowan
Hazel McNee
Claire Simonetta
John Struthers
James Young
Sophie Watt


Due to an unprecedented situation presenting itself to Scottish Government with Covid-19, and resulting significant pressures being put upon government staff to respond to these difficult circumstances, the remit and timescale within which the Suckler Beef Climate Group was expected to work had to be adjusted in order to ensure that a complete set of recommendations with appropriate suggestions on the delivery of the scheme could be presented to the government and worked through by civil servants in order to minimise any delays caused as a result of Covid-19. This meant that the group has been working on the design of the scheme throughout the second and third quarter of 2020.



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