LINK Future of Farming and Rural Land Use in Scotland

6th April 2017

Given the EU referendum results impact on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as well as the ongoing EU discussions on a reform of the CAP, members of LINK’s Food and Farming Subgroup have developed initial views regarding the future of farming and rural land use in Scotland.

A summary is provided below; the full paper can be accessed here.


The Future of Farming and Land Use in Scotland – A summary 

Since joining the European Economic Community in 1973, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been a major influence on Scotland’s rural areas. It has set the direction of agriculture policy and provided a substantial level of financial support to farmers and crofters, which continues today.  Successive reforms have broadened the CAP’s focus and extended its reach, setting new objectives and introducing agri-environment payments, support for forestry and a range of rural development measures.

Following the referendum on EU membership, the UK now looks set to leave the EU.  Recent events mean that Scotland’s future relationship with the EU remains uncertain. Any changes will have significant implications for Scottish agriculture and other land uses such as forestry, for our environment and rural communities. It is therefore already a topic of much debate.

Whilst there are many challenges ahead, not least questions about future funding for agriculture and rural development, there are also opportunities. The most significant perhaps is the chance to consider afresh our objectives for farming and rural land use in Scotland, how these objectives might best be achieved and the role of public policy in doing so.

In summary, we need to:

  • Retain… current levels of public investment in our rural areas. If we leave the CAP behind, this must not be used as an excuse to lower the level of public expenditure in the rural sector.  The challenges facing farming, crofting and other rural land use businesses and the environment are too great to ignore. Without public investment, these challenges will not be met and opportunities will be missed.
  • Reshape… how we spend public money, allocating resources in three main ways:
    • public money for public goods with the lion’s share of resources focused on this;
    • investments to facilitate change such as helping farming, crofting, forestry and other rural businesses adapt and develop, improve business efficiency and explore market opportunities; and,
    • investments in supporting activities including research, knowledge transfer, advice and training.
  • Renew… our rural areas for the benefit of all of us: rewarding farmers, foresters and other land managers for the full range of goods and services they provide and helping rural businesses become more profitable and sustainable; protecting and enhancing the environment and the natural resources that underpin economic activity; and, spending taxpayers’ money effectively, helping to create good livelihoods and jobs and contributing to our health and well-being.


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