By Joyce Campbell and Martin Kennedy
The Hill, Upland and Crofting Group was tasked with coming up with recommendations which would not only result in reducing harmful GHG emissions and enhance biodiversity in our environment, but also continue to deliver the high quality food we have been accustomed to in Scotland. The members of our group represented a wide range of interests not only from a farming and crofting background but also from an environmental and academic one.
With such a variety of topics to cover, for example peatland restoration, deer management, woodland creation and wildlife corridors, through to efficiency improvements involving soil health, animal health and precision agriculture, it became apparent that the group had quite a challenging remit ahead of it, especially given the very tight timescale of only ten weeks. That said, everyone embraced that challenge and fully recognised the importance of coming up with practical meaningful solutions that the whole industry could get behind.
All the subjects that were covered were discussed at length to allow us all to understand the pros and cons of many options. The group members were extremely mindful of the possible unintended consequences of decisions being made, especially around things like offshoring emissions and issues around land use change for the tenanted and crofting sectors.
What became abundantly clear was the fact that people should be at the centre of all decisions as it is people, particularly in the more challenging areas, that are vital to not only maintaining the socio-economic fabric in our rural communities, but who we will also rely on to deliver the targets we have set in front of us.
This led the group to decide on a key principle very early on which was to ensure that any future funding through an agricultural budget must be targeted at activity, and that activity must involve measures that both address climate change and environmental enhancement.
We are very optimistic about the future if we choose the correct path. Scotland in global terms is already starting from a good position, however if we follow the recommendations of this and other farmer-led groups, we have the potential to lead the world and showcase Scotland as the place that sets the bar in terms of sustainable food production.
We would like to thank all the group members for their commitment to what has been a very intensive process and also for their input and feedback which has been of huge value in delivering the recommendations that form this report. We would also like to thank Claire Simonetta for her fantastic efforts in collating all the feedback and putting it together which has allowed us to finalise our findings in the short timescale we were given.
We sincerely hope the recommendations within this report will be taken fully on board and implemented at the earliest opportunity to allow the Hill, Upland and Crofting sector to play its part in meeting our ambitious targets both for food production and the environment.
Joyce Campbell and Martin Kennedy,
Joint Chairs of the Hill, Upland and Crofting Group