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Environmental Sustainability (Farming)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 6th February 2020.

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Photo of Ruth Maguire Ruth Maguire Scottish National Party

7. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to support environmentally sustainable farming practices. (S5O-04109)

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

The support that is provided to farmers, crofters and land managers clearly contributes to environmentally sustainable farming practices. Those receiving funding as direct payments must adhere to agricultural practices that are beneficial to the climate and the environment.

Our agri-environment climate scheme has successfully funded a range of activities that help to maintain and enhance our rich and varied natural environment, with almost 1 million hectares of land under environmental management.

Our new agricultural transformation programme will encompass the now statutory commitments on whole-farm emissions accounting, sustainability, innovation and an agricultural modernisation fund, in line with the climate emergency.

Photo of Ruth Maguire Ruth Maguire Scottish National Party

I thank the minister for that very full answer. The minister will be aware that Boris Johnson has made it clear several times that he intends to allow genetically modified crops to be grown in England. What consultation has there been with the Scottish Government on that? Will the minister provide reassurance to concerned citizens about the Scottish Government’s position on GM crop cultivation?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I can simply say that the United Kingdom Government has not consulted the Scottish Government on the matter. However, it is a devolved matter and I can categorically say that our position on GM has not changed. We have brought in domestic legislation that aligns with European Union law and allows us to maintain our opt-out of GM crop cultivation. We urge the UK Government to continue to align with EU standards on GM in the future.

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

A new agricultural support system will be key to supporting environmentally sustainable farming and it is important that the transition period is used to prepare for that. When will the Government bring forward details on how the pilot schemes to develop the new system will be funded? Is it still the intention to cap direct payments to fund those pilots?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

A short and quick answer from Mairi Gougeon, please.

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I am happy to get back to the member with more detail on that, but a pilot is under way with Scottish Natural Heritage. I will get back to the member with further detail on how we plan to take that forward.