In response to the publication of the National Council of Rural Advisers (NRCA) report “Discussion document: a rural conversation”, Vicki Swales Convenor of LINK’s Land Group and Pete Ritchie Convenor of LINK’s Food and Farming Subgroup issued the following statement:
‘The NCRA was tasked with recommending future action that could sustain a vibrant and flourishing rural economy. Given that the natural environment underpins so much economic activity in rural areas – both in terms of land based businesses such as farming and forestry – and Scotland’s growing tourism and food sectors, it is hugely disappointing to see so little emphasis on the environment in the NCRA report. There is passing reference only to Scotland’s natural capital, and to natural assets being the foundation for a vibrant rural economy, in the introduction. Whilst we welcome the call for the value of environmental impact to be accounted for, some acknowledgement that natural capital is currently being depleted and needs concerted effort to address this is needed.
Tackling climate change – which is already having significant impacts on rural businesses – and halting the loss of biodiversity as well as maintaining healthy soils and water resources, are all essential to future economic prosperity. The report is silent on these challenges and fails to recognise that not responding to them will, ultimately, have economic impacts – both direct costs and missed opportunities for business development. Protecting, maintaining and enhancing our natural environment must be an ambition at the heart of any future rural economic strategy, with a clear plan for how this can be achieved.
The lack of environmental focus in the report reflects, in our view, the make up of the Council itself – with no one appointed to it who explicitly brings environmental knowledge and expertise – and the limited wider engagement to date with individuals and organisations who can provide such input.
While we recognise the positive steps Scottish Government is taking to defend against the damaging consequences of Brexit for the environment, agriculture and the rural economy, we are disappointed with the lack of a coordinated, transparent and inclusive process for developing farm and rural support policy post-2020.
We call on the Scottish Government to start an evidence-based process which fully engages stakeholders -including SEFARI as well as rural local authorities and communities, farming, forestry and environmental interests – in shaping future policy, linked to the recently announced national outcomes and our aspirations for tackling climate change, restoring biodiversity and becoming a good food nation”.
LINK members will be considering how to engage in the consultation launched alongside the report in order to provide more detailed views.
For more information please contact: Daphne Vlastari, LINK Advocacy Manager | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
 The NCRA report can be accessed here: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/5fffcc_9741442988674eefb46be72f9641dbaf.pdf
 Scottish Environment LINK’s response to the Agriculture Champions report can be accessed here:
 Scottish Environment LINK’s member views are captured here (April 2017): http://scotlink.org/public-documents/link-future-of-farming-and-rural-land-use-in-scotland/
 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.
The Survation poll results are available here: http://scotlink.org/public-documents/77-of-scots-want-farming-to-deliver-for-our-environment-and-climate-poll-suggests/
 In March 2018, 50 organisations supported a letter coordinated by LINK and NFUS in support of a just transition to carbon neutral farming by 2050.
 Other reports commissioned on behalf of the Scottish Government, such as the recommendations of the paper by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Greening Group on developing principles for greening beyond the context of the current CAP provides clear recommendations in terms of a vision for farming, funding as well as suggestions for a framework for future policy and support mechanisms.
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.