Delivering a new future for rural Scotland

Four tractors and a chopper lined up in a freshly cut silage field
Sophie Law

The next steps in reforming the agriculture sector in Scotland

Supporting farmers and crofters to cut emissions and produce sustainable, high quality food have been set out by Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon. 

Individuals representing land based businesses covering a range of farming, geographical and environmental interests have been appointed to a new, gender-balanced board called the Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board (ARIOB), co-chaired by the Cabinet Secretary and NFUS President Martin Kennedy.

It will help to develop new proposals for sustainable farming support by considering the Climate Change Plan Update and the Farmer-led Groups recommendations, alongside industry reports. The group will place farmers and crofters at the heart of a future support framework and help Scottish agriculture become more economically and environmentally sustainable.

In order to deliver early action on implementing measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, the group will develop a preliminary package of funded measures for agreement by COP 26. It will be based on the work of the Farmer-led Groups, with an early focus on livestock emissions in particular the detailed work taken forward to a more advanced stage by the Suckler Beef Group. This work should quickly reach as many farms and crofts as possible and ultimately, will assist all parts of Scottish agriculture as Scotland progresses to net zero.

The group will be supported throughout its lifetime by an expanded Scottish Government Academic Advisory panel that will draw on the best available science, knowledge and expertise and grow the evidence base.

Also published is a consultation building on the recommendations from the Farmer-led Groups. The paper sets out a number of key questions on the recommendations which are intended to inform wider work on the development of agricultural policy and the replacement to CAP.

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said:

“Our vision for the future of rural Scotland is a positive one. We see our land managers and world-class producers thriving, while backing our world-leading climate change agenda and our response to the biodiversity crisis.

“The Farmer-led Groups have provided us with a strong footing for refocussing the sector and shifting to more environmentally-friendly practices. We are hugely grateful for the important work they undertook at pace and I want to thank all the groups for the foundation they have given us to build on, particularly in the beef sector.

“The establishment of the board will help us to make early progress in delivering emissions reductions and I look forward to working with the board members closely to deliver the change and the outcomes urgently required. I welcome and value the opportunity to work together with Martin as co-chairs to drive forward and lead this vital change programme, to give farming and food production the long term, sustainable future we are both committed to delivering.

“I have asked the group to create a package of measures, which we will fund, that can be agreed as part of our approach to COP 26. This National Test Programme will include early progress on reducing livestock emissions and the package should be implemented by spring 2022, with recruitment of farmers and crofters expected to begin this autumn.

“Meantime, it is also important we remain focused on the long-term future for agriculture. That is why I have launched a consultation exercise today which will ensure everyone can play their part in shaping the future of farming, food production and land use in Scotland. By working together I am confident that we will be able to support Scottish farming to maintain its world leading credentials in an ever-changing environment.”

The establishment of the Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board (ARIOB) and publication of the consultation was one of the Scottish Government’s commitments to deliver in its first 100 days.

Both pieces of work will directly inform the paper setting out the proposals for a future Agriculture Bill. The paper will be published and consulted on in 2022.


In 2020, Farmer-led Groups were established across all sectors - suckler beef, arable, hill, up-land and crofting, dairy and the Scottish pig industry - with the aim of developing advice and practical recommendations to help drive the change needed to help us meet these challenges. The reports from the Farmer-led Groups were published in March 2021 – this includes the report from the Suckler Beef Climate Group Programme Board.

The Academic Advisory Panel is a group of external academic experts which provide insights to the Scottish Government on the evidence base, and an international perspective on future agriculture and rural development policy. It also provides a mechanism for testing policy proposals and help ensure they take into account that existing evidence base.

The Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan Update, published in December 2020, commits the agriculture sector to reducing its emissions by 31% from current levels by 2032.

The consultation, ‘Agricultural Transition in Scotland: first steps towards our national policy’ is open until 17 November 2021.

More information on the Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board (ARIOB), including minutes from the meeting will be available on the Scottish Government website in due course. The first meeting will be held in September.

Board Membership

Members have been appointed to provide the necessary breadth of expertise and knowledge required to take this work forward, and as such are appointed as individuals and not as representatives of any companies, organisations or bodies of which they are members.