Citizens' forums, and attitudes to agriculture, environment and rural priorities: research report

Results of an independent study into Scottish public attitudes to the environment, agriculture and rural development.

Key conclusions from the research

The research has identified a number of key priorities for future agricultural policy in Scotland. In particular, there is widespread support for a change in course from the legacy of the Common Agricultural Policy which placed a priority on the quality and size of land. In contrast, the research has shown that there is support for placing a greater emphasis on protecting and conserving the natural environment and protecting rural communities, as part of future policy. More generally, there is support for more socially responsible policy which ensures that financial assistance is based on greatest need and enables a fairer distribution of support.

Having said that, the research also reflects strong levels of support for the agricultural sector: there are high levels of agreement that Scottish agriculture provides a vital public service to the people in Scotland and is vital to the success of the Scottish economy. While, the research indicates support for the reprioritisation of funding within the agricultural sector towards some of the other priority areas e.g. environmental protection, and supporting rural communities, there is a view that high quality food production should be at the heart of agricultural policy.

The research has shown that the process of deliberation can increase knowledge and awareness about the scope of the agricultural sector, and also the linkages between agriculture, environment, land management, and rural community issues. Particularly in relation to agriculture and the environment, there is an emphasis on a broader whole system thinking in terms of cooperation on land management; observing trends on climate change and adapting food production accordingly; and ensuring that farming advances environmental goals in terms of soil protection, water quality, and increasing biodiversity.

Considering the gains from increasing knowledge and awareness of issues through deliberative processes, there is a view that future policy should help to raise public awareness of the contributions and scope of the agricultural sector. Meanwhile, there is a view that those with knowledge and expertise of the sector should be responsible for making decisions about the direction of future policy, widening public knowledge and awareness of the sector can help build confidence in feeding into decision-making processes. This is important in terms of building support and understanding around the financial assistance provided to the sector, but also in terms of attracting new entrants to the sector which can be an important source of innovation and modernisation of agriculture in Scotland.



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