Goose management policy in Scotland: 2010 review

Review of goose management policy in Scotland conducted in 2010.

18 Appendix I: Scottish Policy Context

18.1 Introduction

Published in 2007, the Scottish Government's economic strategy establishes sustainable economic growth as its "central Purpose to which all else in government is directed and contributes" 68. Attempts to align all areas of government activity with this central Purpose are to be guided by five strategic objectives, five strategic priorities and a set of targets detailed in a National Performance Framework.

The broad strategic objectives are to make Scotland: wealthier and fairer; smarter; healthier; safer and stronger; and greener. The five strategic priorities relate to: learning, skills and well-being; a supportive business environment; infrastructure development and place; effective government; and equity. These objectives and priorities are discussed in more detail in Section 18.5. Potential tensions (but also complementary gains) between individual objectives and priorities are acknowledged, with reference to the central Purpose offered as a means of resolving trade-offs.

Desirable characteristics of economic growth are identified to include solidarity, cohesion and sustainability, interpreted as meaning that inequalities across individuals are reduced, disparities across regions are reduced and inter-generational growth and environmental quality are promoted as mutually reinforcing. The component drivers of economic growth are identified as productivity and competitiveness, rates of labour force participation and a growing population.

The National Performance Framework 69 sets a mix of longer-term, aspirational and shorter-term targets against which progress under the economic strategy will be gauged. These are expressed as 15 National Outcomes plus 45 National Indicators. In reviewing the relevance of rural land use to these (and thus to the central Purpose), Slee et al. (2009) 70 concluded that aspects of agriculture and the natural environment had a role in contributing to many targets - particularly within rural economies - but that the interaction of various market imperfections and failures implied a need for public policy interventions to encourage such contributions, a point reinforced by Moxey et al. (2009) 71.

However, the Scottish Government is not unconstrained in its policy choices regarding goose management. Potentially, it could choose to ignore the Birds Directive or to seek compliance solely through the voluntary actions of land managers. However, such approaches would risk EU infraction procedures which would result in lengthy litigation if not expensive fines and undoubted political discomfort.

Hence, in practice, the Directive has been transposed into domestic legislation 72 that redefines the private property rights enjoyed by occupiers (i.e. owners/tenants/managers) of farmland. That is, the freedom of land managers to utilise any and all control measures has been constrained, which inevitably imposes less flexibility on management options plus potentially incurs higher agricultural damage, higher input costs and/or lower outputs (e.g. less grazing, more bought-in feed, fewer and/or lighter livestock).

In abstract, whether the redefinition of property rights leads to public compensation for additional private costs or not depends on how situations are interpreted. If private rights to undertake management actions are deemed less important than society's right to avoid environmental damage, any private costs incurred in complying with regulatory constraints are not compensated for. However, if the private rights are deemed more important than society's then compensation may be offered (Bromley & Hodge, 1990) 73.

The first case is referred to as the "polluter pays principle" whilst the second is the "provider gets principle". Essentially, the two cases are distinguished by the baseline or reference level against which changes are gauged. For the polluter pays principle, any reduction in the level of environmental "quality" 74 to which society has a right to expect is viewed as a loss to society and the cost of correcting this loss should fall on those causing it. For the provider gets principle, any improvement in environmental "quality" is viewed as a gain to society and those causing it should be compensated for their efforts. In practice, the distribution of property rights is often ill-defined, yet different approaches are followed in different circumstances and the relative power of interest groups at least partially reflects their respective claims on property rights.

Hence, even given the imposition of regulatory controls and associated private costs on land managers, there is still a policy choice to be made between whether to seek compliance through enforcement alone (e.g. inspections and penalties) and/or through supportive measures (e.g. advice and payments). Historically, the latter approach has been adopted in agriculture and the current goose management policy framework and schemes conform to this. That is, they support mitigation of the level of agricultural (and habitat) damage experienced but also offer support in relation to additional costs incurred and agricultural income foregone.

18.2 A narrower rural land use policy context

The Birds Directive and subsequent regulatory requirements imposed by the European Commission did not arise spontaneously. Rather they reflect increasing concern over the past few decades about the natural environment. More specifically, the Birds Directive was a response to international obligations to protect habitats and biodiversity, most notably the Ramsar, Bern and Bonn Conventions. Consequently, decisions relating to the levels of target populations, their vulnerability and protection have an international as well as European and domestic dimensions.

However, more generally, goose management does not exist in isolation from other rural and land use policy issues and may need to adjust as the wider policy context evolves. In particular the recent resurgence in food security as a concern and the possible primacy of climate change as a policy driver 75 mean that policy priorities may be altering, especially given the likelihood of reduced public budgets at both an EU and domestic level. Conversely, the rhetoric of sustainable development - particularly for fragile island and other remote rural communities - and the promotion of ecosystem services and public goods as an analytical framework may shape broader perspectives of environmental issues, including goose management.

This changing context is perhaps most apparent in on-going reform to the CAP. Precursors to the current goose management schemes originated in an era of coupled support payments and limited agri-environmental schemes. By contrast, current schemes operate against a backdrop of decoupled support (i.e. the Single Farm Payment; SFP) and a suite of agri-environment measures. Moreover, the form taken by the SFP is likely to change further (i.e. from historic to area) and the total level of funding available under the CAP to reduce significantly and to be distributed differently between Pillars I and II.

18.3 Main policy factors

The changing context and increasingly explicit inter-linkages between different land uses highlight a number of factors influencing decisions about future goose management policy. First, likely pressure on both domestic and EU budgets means that the total funding available for (broadly defined) agri-environmental policy may be reduced in future and thus the relative prioritisation of different environmental objectives (e.g. geese, other wildlife species, water quality) may need to be reviewed.

The need for such reassessment will be amplified by an increasing focus on mitigating the emissions of greenhouse gases from rural land use and promoting adaptation to climate change 76 in rural areas, plus renewed interest in renewable energy, rural development and food security based on land management. Not all of such policy objectives will necessarily be affordable alongside, nor compatible with, all existing agri-environmental measures: trade-offs may be required and political and budgetary commitments to goose management may not necessarily be secure.

Second, in the face of tighter budgets and more varied demands, adherence to the provider gets principle may be increasingly challenged in relation to some environmental and equity objectives. That is, regulatory controls are gradually redefining agricultural property rights and some compensatory payments could become judged as unnecessary: land managers experiencing the effects of wild geese populations could simply be required to comply with the regulatory requirements without any public assistance (as occurs with regulations in many other sectors). Such a switch would cause significant political discomfort, yet is already subject to some general debate.

For example, receipt of the Single Farm Payment ( SFP) is conditional upon maintaining land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition ( GAEC) and upon observing 18 Statutory Management Requirements ( SMRs) - including restrictions under the Birds Directive. On the one hand, this can be interpreted as an incentive mechanism to encourage desired land management (i.e. failure to adhere to requirements leads to financial penalties), yet on the other hand it can be interpreted as an unnecessary public cost to induce compliance with existing legal obligations. The latter view has been adopted by some commentators in pressing for elimination of the SFP in favour of more targeted policy measures. Equally, perceived practical difficulties in deploying (and funding) targeted measures have led to interest in "greening" the SFP through enhancing the breadth and depth of cross-compliance.

As an aside, due to its historical basis, not all Scottish agricultural land is currently enrolled in the SFP and thus not all land is subject to cross-compliance. A switch to an area basis would enrol a greater hectarage and extend the spatial coverage of cross-compliance, which might or might not improve incentives for environmental land management in some locations. 77

Third, however, whilst a switch to greater reliance on regulatory requirements alone might avoid an element of public expenditure, it takes little account of current thinking on "smart regulation" which emphasises the interplay between different policy instruments. For example, international experiences suggests that policy effectiveness tends to be enhanced by using (e.g.) advice, training and funding in tandem with regulatory controls rather than simply relying on regulation and enforcement alone. 78 The need for collaboration/co-ordination across neighbouring farms is likely to reinforce this need for a mix of support mechanisms.

Although choices over the type of support should be guided by best practice, they will be constrained by funding considerations and also by EU and international constraints. In particular, as currently interpreted by the World Trade Organisation ( WTO) and then the European Commission, the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) limits payments made to farmers in relation to environmental schemes to only cover elements of income forgone, additional costs incurred and (in some cases) transaction costs. This effectively equates payments to the (private) costs of delivering environmental outcomes rather than the (public) value of such outcomes. This may become an increasing point of tension internationally as the concept of rural land uses delivering a range of (environmental) public goods and ecosystem services gains traction. 79

Fifth, moreover, focusing solely on the effectiveness and cost of goose management neglects linkages to other aspects of rural policy and the sustainable economic growth strategy. For example, alterations to goose management policy may impact upon on-going interest in farm incomes, rural employment and development and (increasingly) food security and climate change mitigation and/or adaptation. Consequently, goose policy decisions will not be taken in isolation and may be influenced by a broader, integrated land use policy perspective. For example, concern about productivity and food security might attach greater significance to agricultural damage whilst concern about methane emissions might attach less significance to retaining livestock grazing.

The conflation of different, possibly opposed, objectives highlights a major decision variable in goose policy, namely the eligibility criteria for receipt of public support. Currently, schemes are restricted to only seven areas (most containing SSSIs/ SPAs) despite wild geese being more widely distributed across Scotland. Decisions on extending eligibility to other areas may be influenced by ecological considerations regarding the numbers (i.e. density) and vulnerability of species concerned and likely agricultural or habitat damage, but also the interplay with other policy interests such as equity of treatment, the viability of farming systems or broader rural development goals. Extending (or restricting) eligibility clearly has potential funding implications and is closely linked to issues of scheme design and payment rates.

Finally, domestically, administration of public expenditure related to land use activities has also been evolving alongside the CAP. Specifically, in an attempt to mirror the simplification of Pillar I, attempts have also been made to consolidate and simplify Pillar II in the form of the Scottish Rural Development Programme ( SRDP) by brigading an increasing array of previously separate schemes under the SRDP.

Thus, whilst the goose management schemes are currently administered through SNH as the public body with the clearest remit for habitats and species, a number of other SNH schemes (and schemes run by other public bodies, notably the Forestry Commission) have already transferred into the SRDP. Hence there is a decision to be made in comparing possible administrative efficiency gains (i.e. lower transaction costs for both public bodies and private claimants) achieved by such brigading against possible negative impacts on policy effectiveness and stakeholder engagement due to redesigning schemes to conform to RDR/ SRDP requirements. This fits neatly under both the National Goose policy objective of value for money and the higher-level SG strategic priority of effective government.

18.4 How the National Policy Framework fits within the Government's Economic Strategy

The National Goose Policy Framework had three stated objectives, namely to:

  • Meet the UK's nature conservation obligations, within the context of wider biodiversity objectives;
  • Minimise economic losses experienced by farmers & crofters as a result of the presence of geese; and
  • Maximise the value for money of public expenditure.

These policy objectives were devised prior to the current Scottish Government's Economic Strategy, which has five strategic objectives, five strategic priorities and numerous targets, all intended to contribute to the central Purpose of sustainable economic growth. Component drivers of this are identified as increases in productivity, labour participation and population size, with desirable characteristics identified as solidarity, cohesion and sustainability.

Figures I1 and I2 (both taken directly from the Economic Strategy 80) show the relationships between these various components and characteristics, with the fit between them and the National Goose Policy Framework discussed briefly below.

Figure I1: The Strategic Approach

Figure I1: The Strategic Approach

Figure I2: Components and characteristics of sustainable economic growth

Figure I2: Components and characteristics of sustainable economic growth

The degree of fit between the current goose policy and each of the overarching strategic objectives and priorities may be considered in turn.

18.5 Strategic objectives

Wealthier and fairer

This objective relates to generating wider opportunities for work, increasing competitiveness and making Scotland a more attractive place to live, work and invest. Although protection of biodiversity and ecosystem services may underpin the long-term performance of economic activities, the imposition of regulatory constraints on farmers affected by wild geese populations raises short-term production costs and undermines current competitiveness. However, in seeking to mitigate these costs, the goose policy is an attempt to retain agricultural employment and competitiveness.


This objective seeks to lay the foundations for future growth and well-being of our children through, increasing skill levels and better channelling the outputs of universities and colleges into sustainable wealth creation. Although there may be some training of farm (and public) staff in better goose management and some deployment of research institutions' expertise, the linkages between this objective and the goose policy framework are weak.


This objective seeks to use anticipatory, timely and effective services and encouragement of healthier lifestyles to increase the productivity of Scotland's workforce, reduce absenteeism, improve public sector efficiency and increase participation by reducing the numbers of workers on Incapacity Benefit. Although protection and enhancement of ecosystem services may contribute to this, linkages with the goose policy framework are weak and indirect.

Safer and stronger

This objective relates to increasing the attractiveness of Scotland as a place to live and work, attracting talented migrants and high quality businesses, reducing out-migration and securing the productive engagement in proactive activity of an even higher proportion of the population. Again, linkages to the goose policy framework are weak and indirect.


This objective relates to improving the natural and built environment, valued by those living and working in Scotland and underpinning many of our businesses and key sectors. This has obvious strong and direct links to the goose policy framework's emphasis on nature conservation and biodiversity objectives - although the tension with (agricultural) productivity and competitiveness is apparent.

18.6 Strategic priorities (embedded within & stretching across the strategic objectives)

Learning skills and well-being

This priority focuses on the role of learning and skills in facilitating both personal and national performance. However, the emphasis is predominantly on formal primary, secondary and tertiary education rather than the type of training that might be associated with goose management schemes. Hence the linkage to the goose policy framework is weak. Equally, whilst environmental issues are noted, again the direct linkage between goose management and well-being is weak.

Supportive business environment

This priority focuses on supporting key economic sectors (including agriculture as part of the food & drink sector) through appropriate public sector actions and partnership working with firms. The linkage to the goose policy framework is apparent through the support offered to mitigate negative impacts of wild geese on affected farms. Moreover, an emphasis on better targeting and "decluttering" of public sector initiatives is reflected in on-going reorganisation of closely related aspects of rural policy.

Infrastructure development and place

This priority focuses on the role of infrastructure such as transport and communication links and planning processes in facilitating local economic development. Hence, the direct link to goose policy is weak. However, site designations (i.e. SPAs) are an aspect of planning-type controls and, moreover, wider rural development policies are increasingly promoting place-based approaches. Thus there are some, albeit indirect, linkages to this priority.

Effective government

This priority (echoing the supportive business environment one above) focuses on improvements to public sector support mechanisms, notably reducing bureaucracy and overlap. As such, it links strongly to the goose policy objective of maximising public value for money and previous recommendations to share best practice and harmonise/streamline administrative processes. Consideration of alternative administrative arrangements through (e.g.) the SRDP fits well here.


This priority focuses on the distribution of opportunities, conditions and experiences across different groups, including social strata, locations and generations. As such, the goose policy objective of meeting nature conservation and biodiversity obligations is in-line with seeking inter-generational equity whilst the objective of minimising economic losses to affected farmers and crofters is in-line with a solidarity and cohesion equity. However, the latter may be at odds with restrictions on the geographical extent of schemes and with differences between schemes.

18.7 Conclusion

None of the 15 National Outcome or 45 National Indicator targets relate explicitly to goose management. For example, the indicator for the abundance of terrestrial breeding birds excludes geese whilst the ecological footprint indicator is broader still and agricultural productivity or employment is subsumed within more aggregate economic indicators. Nevertheless, Slee et al. (2009) 81, suggest that rural land use contributes to most of the outcomes and targets in some shape or form. In particular, they highlight the importance of agricultural activities and environmental management to rural economies and communities.

Consequently, whilst goose management policy will contribute to national outcomes and targets, albeit very marginally due to the limited numbers of farms affected and their aggregate impact on such measurements, local impacts will be more noticeable in terms of, for example, changes to farming systems and their productivity and employment and changes to goose numbers. This suggests that linkages to other, more specific policy metrics may be of greater immediate interests. In particular, the interplay with aspects of the CAP and rural development policy and aspect of biodiversity policies may be significant.


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