Agricultural transition in Scotland - first steps towards our national policy: consultation analysis

Analysis of the responses received to the Agricultural Transition in Scotland consultation. The consultation was carried out between August 2021 and November 2021.

1. Introduction

The Scottish Government wants the successor to the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to enable Scotland's agricultural sector to be economically sustainable, meet net zero targets and enhance biodiversity[1]. Drafting the successor to the CAP presents an opportunity for the SG to catalyse change in the farming and crofting sector in Scotland.

In 2020, the Scottish Government convened Farmer Led Groups (FLG) to develop advice and proposals on practical ways to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, tackle climate change and increase biodiversity. Farmer Led Groups represented five areas of land use, including suckler beef, arable, dairy and pig sectors, upland farming and crofting. Advice and proposals developed by FLGs highlighted nine areas of ideas and concerns, spanning: baseline data collection, funding stipulations, biodiversity commitments, a Just Transition in agriculture, sequestration, productivity, the role of research and development, building knowledge and skills, and the role of the supply chain initiatives.

To assess public opinion on the themes arising from the FLGs, a consultation on 'Agricultural Transition – First Steps toward Our National Policy'[2] ran from 25 August to 17 November 2021. It included 21 open and eight closed questions which were organised around the nine themes identified by the FLG. The consultation provides an opportunity for the Scottish Government to understand the diverse perspectives, expertise and experience that stakeholders can contribute to the Bill, as Scotland moves towards a Just Transition of the agricultural sector.

New legislation will drive reform and underpin a framework of investment in rural businesses and communities, to create sustainable, equitable and fair policies for Scottish agriculture. An analysis of the consultation responses will contribute to the work of the Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board (ARIOB) who will draw on the work of the FLGs and responses to the consultation for proposals of the Agricultural Bill.

Profile of respondents

In total, 314 consultation responses were received. Most were submitted via the online consultation platform, Citizen Space. Those received in an alternative format, for example, a PDF document, were entered into Citizen Space by the Scottish Government. Full responses to the consultation, where permission for publication was granted, can be found on the Scottish Government's website.

Individuals provided 224 responses to the consultation; the remaining 90 were from organisations. Appendix C details the profile of organisations that took part in the consultation. The largest share of organisational responses came from organisations involved in food and agriculture (36) and environmental organisations (16). Farm businesses provided 27 responses; the total number may be higher, but it is not possible to establish how many additional individual responses were farm businesses.

Analysis approach

The Lines Between was commissioned to provide robust, independent analysis of the consultation responses. This report presents the range of views expressed by consultation respondents. A public consultation means anyone can express their views; individuals and organisations with an interest in the topic are more likely to respond than those without. This self-selection means the views of consultation respondents do not necessarily represent of the views of the general population.

Quantitative analysis

An analysis of responses to closed questions is presented in a table at the start of each question. This shows the number and percentage of all 314 respondents who agreed with each proposal, who disagreed and who were unsure. These percentages illustrate the range of opinion held by consultation respondents. As this sample is self-selecting, no conclusions can be drawn about the level of support or opposition among the general public. In addition, Appendix A includes the percentage scores for individual respondents and for organisations to illustrate how views differ by type of respondent.

Qualitative analysis

Qualitative analysis outlines the key themes identified in responses to each question. The analyst team coded each response against a coding framework which was developed based on a review of the consultation questions and a sample of responses. In a small number of instances where alternative format responses contained information that did not align to specific questions, analysts exercised judgement about the most relevant place to include this material for analysis purposes.

A few organisations provided very detailed responses relating to their particular expertise. There is not scope in this report to fully summarise these responses; however, the responses are referenced where possible. Where appropriate, quotes from individuals and organisations are included to illustrate key points and to provide useful examples, insights and contextual information. Full responses to the consultation, where permission for publication was granted, can be found on the Scottish Government's website.

Weight of opinion

While qualitative analysis of open-ended questions does not permit the quantification of results, we signify the weight of a particular view using the following framework which indicates which are the most common or prevalent themes across responses:

  • The most common / prevalent theme in responses; the most frequently identified.
  • Many respondents; more than 50, another prevalent theme.
  • Several respondents; 31-50, a recurring theme.
  • Some respondents; 11-30, another theme.
  • A few / a small number of respondents; <10, a less commonly mentioned theme.
  • Two/one respondents; a singular comment or a view identified in two responses.

Report structure

This report presents an analysis of responses to the questions under each section of the consultation document, as follows:

  • Chapter 2: Baselining – Q1.1 to Q1.5, plus Q9.3 which focuses on data collection
  • Chapter 3: Capital funding – Q2.1 to Q2.3
  • Chapter 4: Biodiversity – Q3.1 and Q3.2
  • Chapter 5: Just Transition – Q4.1 and Q4.2
  • Chapter 6: Sequestration – Q5.1
  • Chapter 7: Productivity – Q6.1 and Q6.2
  • Chapter 8: Research and development – Q7.1
  • Chapter 9: Knowledge and skills – Q8.1 to Q8.3
  • Chapter 10: Supply chains – Q9.1 and Q9.2
  • Conclusions are set out in Chapter 11.
  • A full quantitative breakdown is provided as Appendix A, additional analysis is presented in Appendix B, A sectoral classification of respondents is Appendix C, and a full list of the consultation questions is Appendix D.

Given the breadth of responses, the main report focuses on the most common themes seen at each question. The additional analysis in Appendix B includes descriptions of less commonly mentioned themes, and lists of points or suggestions made by respondents.

Throughout this report reference is made to farms, farm businesses and farmers, crofts and crofters, and land managers. Where only farm or farmer has been used, this is for brevity and is not intended to exclude any other types of agriculture.



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