Our natural environment is central to our identity as a nation, to our health, quality of life and our economy. Over the past year as we witnessed Covid-19 fundamentally change our way of life, the importance of being able to enjoy Scotland's natural environment, and the health and wellbeing impacts this brings, were made clearer than ever. As we look forward, how we use our land and other natural assets will all need to be re-imagined in order to build Scotland's green recovery and address the twin threats of biodiversity loss and climate change.
Scotland is playing a central role in developing environmental solutions to the global climate and nature crises, and our response is based on the strongest possible scientific evidence. Our Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture research programme is central to achieving this. We invest nearly £50 million a year in our research programme, so it is a major commitment for us.
I recognise the dedicated work that has gone into our funded science over the current funding cycle. It has guided policy development, both in my own portfolio and that of my colleague the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism. It has also provided evidence and research which has supported economic development in Scotland in the urban as well as the rural economy and helped policy makers across the Scottish public sector. This is work we need to build on and refocus to meet the challenges we face now, including the need for a green recovery, responding to the global climate and nature crises and the UK's exit from the European Union. These drivers will fundamentally change our approach to conserving Scotland's environment and how we use our fantastic natural assets in Scotland in a sustainable way.
This research strategy sets out our priority research topics for the coming years as climate change; land use; biodiversity; the rural economy; animal and plant disease; water and flooding; and food supply. This strategy also sets out our plans for funding research on topics not previously included in the programme including: air quality; the circular economy; and land reform.
Along with the evolution of the research programme into new areas and responding to new challenges, this strategy sets out how we will enhance the programme to maximise its impact. This includes plans to establish a Scottish Centre of Expertise in Biodiversity. This centre will advise policymakers in government, local authorities and our public bodies on how best to combat biodiversity loss.
I am proud of the progress that we have made in Scotland in responding to the global climate emergency and enhancing our natural environment. However, there is still much to do, and it is vital that our future policy decisions are rooted in evidence. The research priorities and plans set out in this strategy will be central to this approach.
Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform