Scotland’s Climate Assembly published its full report on 23 June 2021. In its response, the Scottish Government has set out how it intends to embrace the findings of the Assembly, a group of one hundred or so citizens that was set up to make recommendations on how ‘net zero’ can be best achieved in Scotland.
From a landowner’s perspective there are three main areas of interest, these being tree planting, peatland restoration and agricultural subsidies.
The Assembly called for an increase in government plans for restoring peatlands and planting native woodlands. The Scottish Government has referred to its shared policy programme with the Green Party to increase native woodland planting from 3,000 to 4,000 hectares per year for the next two years. The Scottish Climate Change Plan already has a stepped target for overall woodland creation. The target for last year was 12,000 hectares, of which 10,660 hectares was achieved (equivalent to 21 million trees!). This target is set to rise to 18,000 hectares by 2024/25. Last year saw what the Scottish Government describes as the ‘biggest woodland creation scheme in a century’ with the planting of 1.4m native species trees in Sutherland.
Funding of peatland restoration commenced in 2021 and the Scottish Government notes that 30,000 hectares of degraded peatland has been set on the road to recovery. There is a commitment to invest £250m over the next ten years to support restoration of a further 250,000 hectares. New targets for peatland restoration will be set next year through work to the next full Climate Change Plan. Peatland ACTION is a Scottish Government-funded peatland restoration programme which landowners can apply to for funding advice and technical and project management support.
The Assembly called for a transition away from the common agricultural policy to subsidies requiring more sustainable land management practices. Work is already underway on this, the Scottish Government having produced a consultation, Agricultural Transition in Scotland, in August 2021, which closed in November. A central theme is that, from 2025, climate and biodiversity performance of businesses will determine the level of agricultural support received. A further statutory consultation is expected in 2022 along with proposals for a future Agriculture Bill.