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Climate / Carmichael concerned at call for ‘move away from meat and dairy farming’

Climate assembly report sets out ideas to reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has called for the government to work in partnership with crofters and farmers to tackle climate change, expressing misgivings about a call from the Scottish Climate Assembly for a support scheme to “enable a move away from meat and dairy farming”.

The climate assembly is calling for a transition to sustainable agriculture that involves a shift away from meat and dairy “in ways that give farmers time to adapt and diversify their businesses” over the next five years.

A report from the assembly was delivered to the Scottish Parliament last week, covering a range of issues from domestic heating and transport to land use and agriculture.

Government ministers have been given six months to publish details on how they will respond.

Liberal Democrat MP Carmichael said: “Every farmer and crofter knows that they have to be part of the solution when it comes to climate change. To the extent that the Climate Assembly proposals are about general principles encouraging better farming practices then that is all to the good.

“I am concerned, however, that as is so often the case those coming up with the policies see farming as a global monolith rather than as a hugely varied affair even within Scotland.

“When there is talk about reducing the production of beef and lamb in Scotland we have to remember that the way that suckler beef or lamb is reared in Orkney and Shetland is a world away from the intensive factory farms of Brazil or Australia – and that applies not just to the animals themselves but to the use of the land.

“Isles farmers are not tearing down rainforests – they are making use of land that is best suited to raising animals and little else. That is just one example but it illustrates how far we can go wrong with sweeping statements about the need to reduce meat production.”

The MP said ways to improve farming’s climate footprint in Scotland “need to be made in partnership with farmers and crofters and with a close understanding of how our communities actually operate, rather than with diktats from the central belt”.

Carmichael added: “When the government responds to the assembly proposals we shall see which approach they choose to take.”