Anne McCall takes us through RSPB Scotland's vision for future rural policy in Scotland and how you can have your say on it through a Government consultation.
Scotland's future rural policy
The debate around the future of farming and rural policy in Scotland post Brexit has been well underway for some time now. You can find RSPB Scotland’s views here in a paper co-authored with our conservation partners in Scottish Environment LINK.
In one form or another, everyone is grappling with two key questions: what kind of farming do we want to see, and what kind of support measures need to be introduced to achieve that?
Until now, the Government itself has remained largely silent in setting out its own views. But it has now published a consultation paper, setting out some short term proposals and inviting views on the longer term direction of travel. This is a step in the right direction and, for us, it’s an opportunity to call for the environment to be put at the heart of future farming policy. It’s also your chance to add your voice to the debate, with more details on how to do this at the end of this blog.
What kind of farming does RSPB Scotland want to see?
We believe in a vision for Scotland’s rural areas where nature is thriving. Wildlife is diverse and abundant, ecosystems are healthy, rivers and lochs are clean, and soils are rich and full of life. At the same time, rural communities are also thriving, and are sustainable places to live and work. Rural businesses are viable, low-carbon, innovative and efficient. People from both rural and urban areas enjoy the countryside, and have access to nature and spectacular places.
How do we make this happen?
RSPB Scotland, as part of Scottish Environment LINK, want rural policy to have the environment and other public goods at the heart. All public money should be targeted towards these public goods – the things that we value as a society, like clean air and water, biodiversity, public access, and thriving communities. To achieve this, we have to change what we invest in.
Farmers and crofters are often not rewarded for providing public benefits that we all enjoy, so we need to support more land managers to do more for the environment.
For example, payments could be available to all farmers, crofters and land managers, in exchange for farmers and crofters doing some simple things that are good for nature - and which are often good for businesses too. More support could be available to those who go above and beyond to conserve nature and to protect and restore special places, or to those who farm in organic or high nature value ways. Woodland payments could both help our beautiful native woodlands, and support new planting in appropriate places.
We also need to help people to work together in the whole countryside, with support for collaboration available to groups of farmers and crofters. Farmers, crofters and land managers will also need help to adapt to these changes, with plenty of advice and training available.
This is just the start of our thinking for the long term, and for policy which is truly good for people and for nature. In the short term, we need to make time to develop these new approaches in a collaborative way, with everyone who has a stake in the rural sector.
The Scottish Government recognises that this consultation applies to a wide range of people, including farmers, crofters, and other participants in the rural economy, wider rural communities, and everyone else who enjoys Scotland’s rich and diverse landscapes. If you are a farmer, crofter, or someone who cares about nature and is keen to make a difference, do make sure the Government hears your views on what you want for the future.
How to respond to the ‘Stability and Simplicity’ consultation
The consultation can be found here. It includes a series of questions, but you do not have to respond to each question to take part in the consultation; you can answer as many or as few as you like. Alternatively, you can simply fill in the respondents’ form and write a letter to the Scottish Government on your views, and send it to: email@example.com.