Consultation into the future of an agriculture bill: EIR release

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004

Information requested

1. What consultation has been undertaken regarding a future agriculture bill?

2. What work has been done to roll out the national test programme?

3. What progress has been made to make 50% of direct payments to climate action and funding for on-farm nature restoration and enhancement by 2025?

4. What work has been done to deliver the National Development Plan for Crofting?

5. What exploratory work has been done to support the future of crofting?

6. What work has been done to invest in advice and skills for farmers and crofters to support a just transition?

7. What updates have been made to catering for change?

8. Has a dedicates Food Security Unit been established within the Scottish Government?


As the information you have requested is 'environmental information' for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.

This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.

1. A public consultation on proposals for a new Bill, “Delivering our Vision for Scottish Agriculture. Proposals for a new Agriculture Bill” was open from 29 August until 5 December 2022. A total of 392 valid responses were received to the consultation from a range of stakeholders and from members of the public across Scotland, in addition to feedback from approximately 600 attendees at the 9 in-person and 5 online consultation events. These responses will inform a new Agriculture Bill, which is expected to be introduced in 2023.

The Scottish Government commissioned an independent research company, Diffley Partnership, to undertake an independent analysis of all responses and feedback received to the online consultation and during the consultation events. The consultation analysis report presents the findings from the public consultation and explains the methodology that was used to analyse the responses. Please find the links below to consultation analysis report, consultation responses and consultation document:

2. The Scottish government outlined its approach to supporting the agricultural sector to prepare for the new support framework and its commitment to co-design and co-development in the Vision for Agriculture. This included support to encourage farms to improve their knowledge of current environmental performance and efficiency and testing the tools, support and process necessary to reward farmers, crofters and land managers for the climate and biodiversity outcomes they deliver.

The National Test Programme - testing actions for sustainable farming phase one survey report outlines the current state of the uptake of sustainable farming practices and motivations/barriers for farmers and crofters.

The Agricultural Reform List of Measures outline the measures currently being appraised by Scottish Government. This list has been built on academic research and recommendations of the Farmer Led Climate Change Groups. The measures have undergone initial evaluation of impact and ease of application on farms and crofts and cost and this evaluation process will continue to ensure Scottish Government applies the most effective and applicable measures to the right tier of future support.

Full details of the Scottish Government's Preparing For Sustainable Farming (PSF) initiative that is helping farmers and crofters across Scotland transition to more sustainable and regenerative farming, including carbon auditing and soil testing can be found on Rural Payments and Services.

3. The Scottish Government published a Route Map and list of draft measures which provides further clarity on how we intend to deliver the ambitions set out in the Vision. The Route Map was revised in June 2023 and outlines what information and guidance the sector can expect from 2023-2025 and when it will be available. It is designed to help the sector plan for changes to the support they receive and contains information on how and when schemes will change and how the new framework will be phased in from 2025. Further information on specific proposals and recent announcements at the Royal Highland Show have been published.


4. Crofting Commission
In 2022, the Commission received an increase to its budget which enabled it to create and then expand its Crofting Development Team. The Residency and Land Use team has also been expanded and its breadth of activities has increased, as set out in the Plan. The Commission will shortly be merging its Development and Grazings Teams, which will become a combined team focused on supporting crofters and crofting communities. The Commission has increased its external engagement with crofting communities through Scotland’s Farm Advisory Service (FAS) facilitated workshops. The Commission has also undertaken significant work with regard to the information contained on its website. The Commission and Scottish Government officials worked together to create a signposting portal (‘Useful Links’) on its website, which provides links to advice and support for crofters, to the Croft House Grant, Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme, Scotland’s Farm Advisory Service, Scottish Crofting Federation and others. The Commission has been active with regard to the issue of croft succession. It has engaged with the Scottish Land Matching Service (SLMS) on how it can support the Service to move from a farming focus to a farming and crofting focus and will work with the SLMS to help facilitate this service. Later in 2023, the Commission will be launching its pilot project on Croft Succession, focusing on the two key areas of the West Highlands and South Uist. As part of this work, the Commission will be encouraging crofters to consider succession planning and the various options that are available.

Crofting Legislation
In May 2022, the Crofting Bill Group was reinstated to consider crofting legislation, including the issues raised by the Crofting Bill Group in 2016-2018. The Group is also considering additional changes proposed by the Crofting Commission and the Law Society of Scotland. The Group is composed of stakeholders including the Scottish Crofting Federation, National Farmers’ Union of Scotland, Crofting Commission, Highland and Islands Enterprise, Registers of Scotland, Law Society of Scotland, crofting Solicitors and others.

Skills Development

Progress has been made across all priority areas in the Skills Action Plan for Rural Scotland and an update on the Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan is expected to be published before the end of 2023. In addition,NatureScot has published a revised Action Plan for Nature-based jobs, covering the period up to April 2024. This shows how NatureScot, working with partners, will take steps to support the skills and jobs needed to put in place nature-based solutions so that Scotland meets net zero targets by 2045.

Local Food Networks
Scottish Government officials have met with the Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF), Scotland Food & Drink and the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society to discuss how crofters can connect with Regional Food Groups and local food networks, and also to discuss the creation of a crofting food network. Funded by the Scottish Government’s National Transition Training Fund and HIE, the SCF has been able to provide training for crofters on marketing their croft produce.

Land, Environment & Biodiversity
In December 2022, the Scottish Government published its draft Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, setting the vision for halting biodiversity loss by 2030 and reversing declines by 2045. The Scottish Government also funds an SRUC apiary specialist to encourage promotion and engagement with NatureScot and the Pollinator Strategy. Actions and progress with the Pollinator Strategy were published in March 2023. The Cabinet Secretary has announced future annual rounds for the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) up to and including 2024, subject to future budgetary decisions. NatureScot is also continuing its pilot work on Farming with Nature focussed on developing habitat scorecards and audit. In May 2023, it launched its ‘Species on the Edge’ 5-year programme which involves work with eight conservation organisations and volunteers to protect 37 priority coastal and island species. The Scottish Government has committed £250 million over this decade towards supporting the restoration of degraded peatland, which is being delivered through the Peatland Action programme led by NatureScot. A GIS map which shows carbon and peatland is now available on the Scottish Government’s Environment Web, and there is a Civic Tech Challenge project funding the development of a technical platform that will help identify which degraded peatland sites it is most cost-effective to focus restoration. Through the work on crofting law reform, Scottish Government officials are working to try and identify how to make it easier for crofters to get involved in peatland restoration projects, and we are looking to make it easier for shareholders to use a common grazings for purposes other than agriculture, such as habitat restoration. The joint Scottish Government and Scottish Forestry Integrating Trees Network programme aims to encourage more crofters and farmers to plant trees and to raise awareness of the multiple benefits that planting trees can bring to agricultural businesses. The programme has specific Tea and Trees with Crofters events. The Scottish Government also continues to support the Croft Woodlands Project. The Scottish Government is committed to continuing to run the Sea Eagle Management Scheme beyond the current scheme, which ends in December 2023. The Scottish Government also committed to undertake a quinquennial review of national goose policy in 2022. All key stakeholders, including local goose management groups, were consulted. The report, which is expected to be published later in 2023, will provide recommendations to Ministers which will help develop future goose management policy in Scotland. The Scottish Government has established a project under the Scottish Biodiversity Programme Board to encompass legislative and nonlegislative components of ensuring effective deer management.

Every year officials undertake a review of the Croft House Grant (CHG), to ensure it is providing support to active crofters, who would be unable to build or improve their home without grant funding. In March 2023 the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands announced an increase in the grant rate for house improvements, from 40% to 60% of the total project cost, up to the maximum grant of £38,000. Furthermore, in July 2023, the Minister for Energy and the Environment announced the introduction of energy efficiency measures to the house improvement option under the CHG, with an 80% grant rate up to the maximum grant of £38,000. In October 2022, the Scottish Government announced a change to the claim stage under the CHG for the 2022/23 financial year. This meant that crofters who already had a contractual agreement under the scheme were able to submit earlier claims to help them complete their project. This action was taken to help relieve some of the financial burden on those crofters building and improving their croft homes.

Farm Advisory Service
Within the FAS one-to-many service, a wide range of new digital content was released during April 2023, including on crofting legislation and the CHG. FAS Sounds is also continuing the successful podcast series Crofting Matters. The FAS one-to-one service is working with the SCF and the Crofting Commission to put together tailored information for crofters. The information will cover a variety of areas including food security and supporting the local economy, succession, and advice and support on peatland restoration, biodiversity, and woodland creation on crofts/common grazings.

Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme
Officials will shortly reinstate the CAGS Focus Group, a stakeholder group with representatives from the Crofting Commission, NFUS, SCF, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Croft Woodlands Project, amongst others. The group will consider what activities or projects could be supported under the scheme. All the CAGS actions in the Plan will be discussed by the Focus Group. The Scottish Government continues to provide support for crofters and their animals through the Highlands & Islands Veterinary Support Scheme, a subsidised veterinary service which has an annual budget of £760,000. The Scottish Government’s Crofting Stakeholder Forum has been tasked with monitoring the progress of the actions and commitments contained in the Plan. The Forum last met on 14 June 2023.

5. In 2022, the Crofting Commission received an increase to its budget which enabled it to expand its staff resource in its Crofting Development, Regulatory and Residency and Land Use teams. This increase in staff resource has allowed the Commission to expand its work supporting and encouraging the active management of common grazings and more active use of crofts, which will help create opportunities for new entrants.

The Scottish Government provides and approves over £40 million each year to croft businesses through various support mechanisms including the Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme (CAGS), Croft House Grant (CHG), beef and sheep schemes, Scotland’s Farm Advisory Service (FAS) and the Cattle Improvement Scheme.

Officials continually monitor the CHG and carry out an annual review of the scheme, followed by discussions with key stakeholders. Officials are also currently reviewing the CAGS and will shortly be reinstating the CAGS Focus Group. The Group will help officials develop a new scoring mechanism and agree on a revised list of projects permitted under the scheme.

The Scottish Government has published a Just Transition, Land Use and Agriculture discussion paper making clear that crofters and farmers will be supported throughout the transition to net zero, to develop the skills needed for regenerative and sustainable farming, changes of land use management and adaptation to the changing climate. The FAS is funded by the Scottish Government and delivers advice to crofters and farmers through its one-to-one or one-to-many services, which includes access to workshops/events, technical notes, videos, podcasts etc, helping to support crofters and farmers in the transition to net zero.

Every four years, the Scottish Government reports to Parliament on the economic condition of crofting and the measures taken by the Scottish Ministers and others to support crofting during the reporting period, and the further measures that the Scottish Ministers intend to take. The latest report was published in December 2022 [Economic Condition of Crofting: 2019 to 2022]. As part of this work a survey took place and sought the views of 4,000 crofters on a range of social and economic issues pertinent to crofters and crofting. A range of questions were asked covering areas such as crofting income, crofting activities undertaken, planned activities and investment, and grant support received. New questions were added in 2022, covering peatland restoration, biodiversity activities and forestry and woodland creation. This information will help the Scottish Government to develop future policies in these areas. Officials, on behalf of the Scottish Ministers as crofting landlords, are actively looking at ways to encourage and support its crofting tenants to manage effectively the common grazings, and for the land to be used to produce food more sustainably whilst cutting emissions and enhancing the environment and

The Scottish Government fully appreciates the unique nature and needs of common grazings and has long experience of taking these into account as part of policy development and implementation. Codevelopment of the operational delivery of agricultural support involves crofting representatives in the codevelopment of the Whole Farm Plan, as well as the on the Agricultural Reform Implementation Oversight Board (ARIOB), ensuring that issues including crofting systems such as common grazings are incorporated appropriately into delivery mechanisms.

In May 2022, the Crofting Bill Group was reinstated to consider crofting legislative reform. The Bill will provide clarity in law and introduce some immediate positive outcomes for crofters and their communities. It will also be a means to tidy-up, simplify, and clarify existing legislation. In addition, the Bill will serve to update the legislation and allow the Crofting Commission to better support the future of crofting. The Crofting Bill Group, which meets regularly, is composed of stakeholders including the Scottish Crofting Federation, National Farmers’ Union of Scotland, Crofting Commission, Highland and Islands Enterprise, Registers of Scotland, Law Society of Scotland, crofting Solicitors and others.

6. Through our Just Transition approach the Scottish Government is committed to supporting farmers, crofters and other landowners / managers to enhance and / or develop the skills needed for regenerative and sustainable farming, changes of land use management and adaptation to the changing climate. This also aligns with the Agricultural Vision for Scotland VISION. Through the recently published Land Use and Agriculture Just Transition discussion paper Just Transition - Land Use and Agriculture ( we are seeking to engage with people throughout rural Scotland to understand the barriers and opportunities they face as we develop the first Land Use and Agriculture Just Transition Plan.

The need to deliver advice and support skills development and knowledge transfer for farmers and crofters on the just transition journey is currently underpinned by resources provided by the Farm Advisory Service FAS, which is funded, under contract, by the Scottish Government (circa £4.8 million per annum). Many of the resources provided, whether it be access to workshops/events; technical notes; videos; podcasts etc deliver advice to assist farmers and crofters navigate the course to a Just Transition.

In terms of future advice, skills development and knowledge transfer, preparations are underway to scope out what future support will be required post 2025/26. Scoping work is at an early stage but is being informed by research undertaken by Climate x Change. The published report is available at CXC LINK and this outlines options for development of a new Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation system (AKIS), which will include a system of Continued Professional Development (CPD) for the agricultural sector.

7. There have been no updates made for catering for change. There is a commitment in the 2022/23 Programme for Government to Update Catering for Change however changes have not yet been made.

8. Yes, this has been published here - Protecting food security - (

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