SCOTLAND is not immune to the impacts of climate change, and an environmental group has said our farmers need better leadership and support from the Scottish Government to adapt to its challenges.

WWF Scotland said 2018 has been a year of extremes, with the Beast from the East delaying spring and an unusually hot and dry summer bringing multiple challenges to our food producers.

This came as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] called for urgent, “game-changing” action on greenhouse gas emissions if the world was to keep warming below the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C goal.

The environmental group said Scotland’s biggest crop, barley, was affected by this extreme weather, as difficult conditions led to a drop in the amount of cereals and oilseeds planted. Production of winter barley was down 24% and spring barley, the main ingredient in whisky, fell by 6%. The yield of wheat also dropped by 16%.

WWF said hill farmers also suffered, as the combination of the unusually long winter and dry summer affected the availability of fodder, and led to a spike in sheep losses.

Sheila George, food and environment policy manager at WWF Scotland said: “We can no longer think about climate change as a problem other people are experiencing many miles away, it is happening right now in front of our eyes at home.

“The temperature extremes experienced this year, from the Beast from the East to the prolonged hot, dry summer have had a major impact on farmers and on the food we can buy and eat.

“That’s why we believe there’s an urgent need for greater leadership and support from the Scottish Government to help farmers adapt and build resilience to climate change impacts in the face of increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather.

Andrew McCornick, president of NFU Scotland, said: “Scotland’s farmers are on the front line of experiencing the impacts of climate change, but since agriculture is also a source of greenhouse gas emissions, farmers and crofters have an important role to play in reducing emissions. Reducing emissions in farming will not, however, be easy or immediate.

“It will depend on new innovation and the application of the latest science and on achieving widespread change in practices in an industry made up of thousands of small businesses. The Scottish Government puts great emphasis on leading the way in tackling climate change and it does already fund activity to help reduce emissions from farming, but there is so much more that it could do to work with and help Scotland’s farmers reduce emissions.”

Highland crofter, Lynn Cassells, added: “With climate change something we are now experiencing directly, our farm business model for the future must be based on long-term resilience.”