On 2 March 2022, the Scottish government published its vision for sustainable and regenerative farming. This vision to be a global leader is a bold one and one that we support. Its delivery will hinge on commitment to transformational change in the way we farm and use land in Scotland and in how we support farmers and crofters to do that.
The Sustainable and regenerative farming – next steps: statement is available here.
“The challenges facing biodiversity are as important as the challenge of climate change, and I want Scotland to be leading the way in our response”.
Nicola Sturgeon MSP, July 2019
We all face climate and nature emergencies, which Scotland is committed to tackling. Farmers and crofters are part of the solution to these challenges. They are also an integral part of local rural communities, and ensuring rural businesses thrive and steward and regenerate Scotland’s environment for future generations is vital.
Framing this vision around climate mitigation and adaptation, as well as nature restoration, helps focus on ensuring that the approach Scotland adopts on land use and land management will aim to deliver progress towards meeting both our 2024 climate targets and the 2030 nature restoration targets we expect to see come out of COP15. A future support framework has to be designed so that it supports farmers to reduce emissions and restore nature at the same time as producing high quality food.
For success to be achieved in reforming farming policy, support must be aligned with other key policy mechanisms: we welcome the reference to the Good Food Nation bill. Other policy alignments that would contribute to success include the National Planning Framework 4 and its delivery of connectivity for nature through nature networks, the biodiversity strategy, the Natural Environment Bill for example.
The next two years provide a window and opportunity to reshape agricultural policy. In order to seize that opportunity, this first step must be followed by a coherent plan for a support framework that puts the nature crisis and tackling climate changes as a top priority.
We must now move funding for climate and nature from the margin to the mainstream, with the majority of farm support geared to reducing emissions, locking up carbon and restoring biodiversity – not just on marginal land but on all our land and in all our waters.
The Scottish government’s vision of a transformation to sustainable and regenerative farming is ambitious and necessary. If we are to meet the global target for climate and nature, significant investment is required. We support a move towards enhanced conditionality of at least half of all funding for farming and crofting by 2025, but this is a minimum. The scale of the challenge is such that delivering outcomes to restore nature, benefit our natural capital and promote the natural economy will require more than this.
Besides funding support to enable all farmers to restore nature and reduce emissions, we need to see more investment in skilled advice services, so all farmers have access to the level of expert advice they need to identify actions to deliver those targets. This also enables them to produce high quality food and run sustainable businesses that underpin thriving local rural communities.
We are ready and willing to contribute to this work and we look forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament as it moves forward with its plans for agriculture, aiming to transform how we fund and support farming with nature and climate at its heart.
This statement represents the collective view of LINK’s Food and Farming Group. Members may also respond individually in order to raise more detailed issues that are important to their particular organisation.