Agriculture Bill: consultation analysis

An independent analysis of the responses to the consultation on proposals for a new Agriculture Bill, “Delivering our Vision for Scottish Agriculture. Proposals for a new Agriculture Bill”, which was open from 29 August until 5 December 2022.

Section G: Assessing the Impact

Potential costs and burdens

Potential costs and burdens identified were:

  • Potential cost of required resourcing and staffing: Many responses offered suggestions on the types of resourcing and staffing required by proposals. These included an increase in GIS (Geographic Information System) personnel within Scottish Government and local authorities, an increase in nationwide GIS licensing, and greater staffing in specific areas, such as flood management. It was advised that changes to the subsidy regime could result in increased reliance on professional advisors, adding a further cost. The addition and/or adaption of further inspectorates was also mentioned, whilst others noted that payments to farmers and other food producers must be adequately budgeted for.
  • Potential burden of bureaucracy and/or onerous administration: There were concerns that the implementation of some elements of the proposal could be burdensome for farmers who are trying to make a living. Others felt that burdens were dependent on the way proposals were implemented, and whether measures are proportional to and workable for small-scale agriculture. Some responses also highlighted that farmers/crofters may need to change practice to some extent to ensure payments, and that such a transition could be stressful in the short term as they become familiar with new skills and equipment.
  • Impact on relations: There were also worries that the proposals could impair relations between Scottish Government and agricultural communities, particularly if they led to Government being more involved in economic decisions affecting the sector.
  • Potential that any costs or burdens will be worthwhile: Others felt that the implementation of the proposals would far outweigh any negative effects. Such responses noted that the proposals outlined would help to create a fairer Scotland, ‘make the most’ of Scottish land and safeguard future food sources. It was also recommended that potential financial costs could be remedied through sensible financial management.

Positive and negative impacts on the environment

Positive impacts on the environment that were identified are as follows:

  • The proposals offer a radical change/step in right direction for Scottish agriculture: Many responses noted that the new Agricultural Bill has the potential to support radical change towards a more ecological food and farming model. Some felt this was particularly true in regard to support of genetic protection in and ex-situ, which they saw as having significant potential to create a more sustainable food production system that respects the carrying capacity of Scottish lands and protects against outbreaks of pests and diseases. Others pointed out that an emphasis on Tier 2 payments (relative to Tier 1), and incentivising sustainable and regenerative farming practices, would likely generate multiple positive impacts through supporting nature restoration and enhancement and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The proposals could lead to a growth in popularity of some environmental schemes: It was felt that the proposals could lead agri-forestry and organic farming to become more popular, with, for example, less ploughing of land and more minimum-tillage cropping. There were also suggestions that alternative environmental schemes such as the formation of beetle banks and farm ponds could prove popular, if properly financed. Others advised that the more efficient use of farm slurries and farm yard manures, through careful nutrient management planning, would lead to healthier soils and crops.
  • Positive impact on climate change, increase in biodiversity and resilience of crops: Proposals were seen to have particularly positive impacts on tackling climate change, and could help to increase Scotland’s natural capital. For instance, some responses advised that proposals could lead to an increase the range and number of pollinators and wildflowers, improve the quality of our landscape and encourage non-farm plant and animal diversity. It was also thought that proposals could help to increase the diversity and resilience of crops.

A negative impact that was identified was:

  • Over-fixation on efficiency, impact of over-administration, and risk of measures being 'watered down': Some responses expressed worries that an over-fixation on administration and efficiency, and less dedicated focus on the environment itself, might roll back some of the beneficial aspects of these proposals after they've been implemented, and felt that there was a need to prevent this. Others described a risk that those with vested interests could use their influence to ‘water down’ measures for their own personal gain, having a subsequent negative impact on the environment and wider society.



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