Section C: Skills, Knowledge Transfer and Innovation
The consultation paper proposed:
- That the new Agricultural Bill continues to provide the full panoply of support for knowledge transfer, innovation and skills development within the agricultural, crofting and land management sectors and that future support mechanisms are designed in such a way that they meet emergent needs and remain flexible/adaptable to future pressures for change.
- That the new Agriculture Bill provides Scottish Ministers with the power to establish a national reserve, and regional reserves if/when required, to ensure the equal treatment of farmers and to avoid distortions of the market and of competition.
Support for knowledge transfer, innovation and skills development
The vast majority (92%) of those who responded to this question agreed that support should continue to be provided in the area of skills, knowledge transfer, and innovation, while 3% disagreed.
Many respondents noted that this support was crucial in order for there to be thriving agricultural, crofting and agricultural sectors in the future. Support was viewed as vital to attract new entrants into the sectors and encourage new delivery methods, innovative solutions, and activities to be explored through acquiring new skills, and also from learning from other areas. There were also calls for a greater emphasis on continuous improvement.
It was argued that the current support is insufficient and therefore should be extended or modified. There was a sense that agricultural training and support is often behind the agricultural supply chain and that Scottish Government did not understand the complexity of the sector enough to deliver this support.
Respondents also identified the following perceived gaps in delivery:
- Animal welfare and habitat conservation
- Integrated Pest Management
- Nut production
- Local food skills
- Biological soil analysis
- Vegetable and fruit growing
In terms of approaches that might deliver better results in the skills, knowledge transfer and innovation space reference was made to the following:
- More supply chain involvement
- Mentorship schemes
- More expert involvement from outside government
- Regional hubs
- Open source platform that can easily be accessed
- Farm schools
- Collaboration with Higher Education
- Refresh and extend a mandatory CPD
- More consultation with key stakeholders
Similarly, in terms of suggestions as to how advisory services might be improved responses suggested making them more convenient to access, better online resources and courses, a centralised source of information, wider expert engagement, offering points as part of a qualification or CPD, upskilling advisors and better communications around what is available.
Establishing a national reserve, and regional reserves if/when required
56% of respondents agreed that Scottish Ministers should have the power to establish a national reserve and regional reserve if/when required to ensure the equal treatment of farmers and to avoid distortions of the market and of the competition, compared to 9% who disagreed and 35% who did not know.
In relation to the establishment of a national reserve were that some believed it was needed for the purposes described in the consultation document.
Some challenges were outlined by those who agreed in principle including that managing perceptions will be an important task in relation to how this is achieved, for example the potential perception of funds being side-lined for an unknown future purpose, when they could be having direct and positive impact now.
To aid understanding, it would be helpful to have sight of how potential market distortions and competition will be assessed and subsequently what support might then be available and to whom.
However, others felt that there was not enough detail in the consultation document as to how this would work for them to meaningfully comment on the proposals.
There were also arguments around whether such a system was efficient given its relative cost to administer and what purpose it would serve.
“We do not understand from the consultation paper what the purpose of such reserves would be, especially in this section with its focus on skills and innovation.
An initial and important starting point is that eligibility for and access to future payments in any of the Tiers should not turn on past occupation of farmland, past “active farmer” status or past claims. We are looking to the future in a time when structures will need to change if we are to have positive results.” [Organisation, Environment Sector]
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