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The HTA calls on the Scottish Government to deliver a sustainable and realistic transition to peat-free

by | 16 May 23 | Featured Slider, Nature & Biodiversity, News, Sustainability, Topics

The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) has set out a detailed response to the Scottish Government Consultation on Ending the Sale of Peat, representing the views from the breadth of its 1,400-strong membership.

In a consultation that ran from February to May 12th, the Scottish Government put forward a multi-stage proposal to ban the sale of peat, beginning with the retail horticulture sector, which accounts for around two thirds of all peat used in UK horticulture.

The Scottish consultation follows the 2022 UK government consultation.

Scotland’s peatlands play a critical role in responding to the twin crises of the global climate emergency and loss of biodiversity. They hold around 1.8 billion tonnes of carbon; this is equivalent to around 145 years’ worth of Scotland’s total net carbon emissions.

Peatlands support important ecosystems and biodiversity, improve water quality, and reduce flood risk. However, when degraded or in poor condition these benefits are mitigated, and peatlands become a net source of carbon emissions.

It is a critical issue for an industry that supports nearly 700,000 jobs, has a national GDP of almost £28bn, mitigates climate change and benefits the health and well-being of 30 million gardeners in the UK.

In Scotland this equates to over 64,000 jobs and a contribution of £2.8bn towards GDP, with the potential to see significant increase by 2030 if the industry and key stakeholders work collaboratively.

The HTA responded to the consultation calling for the Scottish Government to deliver a sustainable and realistic transition to peat-free, respecting that the use of peat in horticulture is a complex and vital issue, that has significant consequences and risks for the present and future of the industry.

The HTA response in summary:

  • Work with horticulture experts to deliver a sustainable and achievable peat ban roadmap that delivers on sector growth
  • Any regulation or policy on ending the sale of peat must have a comprehensive and open economic impact assessment looking at the environmental and economic consequences, informed by industry and sector expertise
  • Industry supports a transition to peat-free
  • Alternatives to peat need to deliver on the quality and variety of plants and products that can be produced that are so valued by gardeners, green spaces and Scottish biodiversity
  • Time is needed for transition – seasonality is key
  • Too early an end-date for professional uses hugely risks UK plant and tree production
  • Each business is important and unique in its journey to peat-free, and we must sustain the whole sector so they can grow for Scotland

James Barnes, HTA chairman comments:

“We welcome having the opportunity to feed our expert view into the Scottish Government consultation on ending the sale of peat in Scotland. This is a critical issue for HTA members. It has taken hard work and investment, and many businesses are still on the journey. The sector’s progress to date in reducing peat use must be celebrated.

The arbitrary bringing forward of the date for peat removal from the professional sector from 2030 to 2026 by DEFRA remains an existential threat to the size and scale of the Scottish Industry. The industry is on target to meet this deadline with certain specialist exemptions. However, reducing the number of growing seasons from 7 to 3 will seriously curtail the ability to trial new mixes effectively, leading to supply shortages. Moreover, banning all imports containing any peat will substantially curtail choice for consumers, leading to both inflation and potential rationing.

We urge the Scottish Government to refrain from following this example. To understand the required timeframes and support horticulture businesses with R&D funding to fully transition from using peat. We want to engage fully with the Scottish Government to ensure we can deliver growth for horticulture and increase gardening and greenspaces with the mass benefits it brings. Our commitment and ambition for the sector in Scotland have been set out in our recent Scottish Environmental Horticulture Growth Strategy, which we are eager can be delivered.”

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