Scottish Environment LINK welcomes the publication of this report as a contribution to the ongoing debate around the future of rural payments in Scotland. We also welcome the call for a ‘civic conversation’ and have expressed our willingness to participate in such a conversation from the outset of this process.
The full document can be downloaded here.
- LINK members have supported the need and worked to enable cross-sectoral dialogue with the input of environmental charities and civic voices, as well as other partners.
- In June 2017, LINK and SLE co-hosted a Chatham House rule workshop on the future of rural support; key conclusions were captured in a report.
- Earlier in 2018, LINK commissioned Survation to conduct polling of 1,000 Scots to identify public views on future support payments, with 77% of Scots indicating that they want farming to deliver for our environment and climate.
- At the same time over 50 organisations supported a letter coordinated by LINK and NFUS in support of a just transition to carbon neutral farming by 2050.
- LINK supports the report’s conclusions on the need for an urgent mindset change, particularly with respect to support for generating public value on behalf of society. The acknowledgement that “no change is not an option” should prompt Scottish Government to move forward and develop specific policy proposals. Other countries in the UK, such as England and Wales, have published views about the future of rural payments. Scotland cannot afford to lag behind.
- Despite the emphasis placed in the report regarding a mindset change, it fails to offer a clear policy framework to deliver the change aspired. We are disappointed that the report’s recommendations are still developed in way which puts ‘production efficiency’ in one corner and ‘public value’ in another. The rationale for retaining a level of income support is unclear as well as the way in which it is linked to ‘production efficiency’ and ‘public value’.
- In addition, some ideas presented do not seem to match the aspirations expressed in the report. For example, the report indicates that schemes such as LFASS, Sheep scheme and Beef Efficiency should be retained and built on to support high nature value (HNV) farming. In our view, however, these schemes are not well placed to deliver for HNV farming.
- With respect to the proposals to cap overall support, while there is logic for capping income support payments, this is not the case for payments towards environmental/public goods given the different nature of these.
- We are also concerned regarding references to “relaxation in the planning system”. We agree that rural housing is an issue and that we also need a regime that helps farm diversification and business development. However, this cannot happen at the expense of the natural environment. We would recommend that rather than allowing things to happen in a piecemeal manner or creating an overly permissive regime, that a more strategic look at rural needs is required. There is a clear link here with commitments under the Land Use Strategy and requirement of regional land use plans.
- We also note that the report’s 2006 predecessor ‘A Forward Strategy for Agriculture’ shares much of the same analysis. It would have been helpful to have started by reviewing what has changed and what hasn’t since then.
- It would have also been useful for the report to have explicitly reflected the conclusions and recommendations of the paper by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Greening Group on developing principles for greening beyond the context of the current CAP. The paper provides clear recommendations in terms of a vision for farming, funding as well as suggestions for a framework for future policy and support mechanisms.
- From a policy context point of view, we are disappointed that there is no reference to UN SDGs or Scottish ambitions for a Good Food Nation Bill. It would have been useful to compare the report’s recommendations against those overarching goals
- Looking ahead, LINK looks forward to the recommendations of the National Council of Rural Advisors and hopes that responses to the conclusions of the Agriculture Champions report will be reflected there.
 LINK member views are captured here (April 2017): http://www.scotlink.org/public-documents/link-future-of-farming-and-rural-land-use-in-scotland/
 More information about the letter: http://www.scotlink.org/public-documents/scottish-government-must-drive-just-transition-towards-carbon-neutral-farming-urge-50-ngos-farmers-rural-groups-and-academics/
 The final paper can be accessed here: https://beta.gov.scot/publications/cap-greening-group-discussion-paper/. The group was chaired by Professor Russel Griggs and was established at the request of Scottish Ministers in February 2017.