Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands
Mairi Gougeon MSP
Our land and seas are precious assets that sustain our people, underpinning our food security, and my key priority is to ensure that we continue to act as responsible custodians of them. The twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss require urgent and sustained action and I will work tirelessly with my Cabinet colleagues to meet these challenges.
This action is vital not just to meet our statutory obligations and achieve economic prosperity, but because it is imperative that we respect and nurture the ecosystem that forms our foundation – protecting it for future generations. I want to grasp the opportunities to support action in rural and coastal communities which are already embracing many of the changes we want to see across Scotland. I want to ensure that our precious natural resources are managed sustainably to benefit all of Scotland.
Working with my Cabinet colleagues and with partners, including Local Government, we will also focus on the steps needed to create jobs, tackle inequalities, strengthen food production and food security, and support repopulation and green skills development in our rural communities – boosting the rural and coastal economy.
As the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands, working with my Cabinet colleagues, I commit that by 2026 I will have:
- Ensured that, through the publicly committed Route Map to transition, agriculture support is delivering increased conditions on Direct Payments. This will better incentivise sustainable and regenerative practice, on-farm nature restoration and climate mitigation and adaptation efforts, while supporting our producers in high-quality food production.
- Introduced Land Reform legislation to further improve transparency of land ownership, helped ensure large scale land holdings deliver in the public interest, and empowered communities by providing more opportunities to own land and have more say in how land in their area is used.
- Created new crofting opportunities through delivery of the National Development Plan for Crofting and reformed the law, subject to agreement by parliament, to support the future of crofting.
- Continued to support six Scottish Islands – Hoy, Islay, Great Cumbrae, Raasay, Barra and Yell – to become carbon neutral by 2040, and shared good practice and lessons learned from this work with all other Scottish islands.
- Published and started to implement Scotland's national Good Food Nation plan, which will set out the main outcomes to be achieved on food-related issues, the policies needed to do so and the measures that will be used to assess progress; and established the Scottish Food Commission.
- Published our response to the 2023 Land-Based Learning Review, aiming to help create employment opportunities in land-based and aquaculture sectors to promote rural development and sustainable communities.
- Implemented the recommendations of the Werritty Review to license grouse moor management and muirburn, ensuring management of grouse moors and related activities are undertaken in an environmentally sustainable manner – subject to the passage of the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill.
- Established Scotland as an international leader in the use of technology for responsible fisheries management through the introduction of remote electronic monitoring to key parts of the fishing fleet, further enhancing our brand for world class sustainable fish.
- Improved our policy and regulatory framework for sustainable aquaculture in Scotland, protecting the environment and supporting a global export worth more than £1 billion to the Scottish economy.
- Taken steps to further protect and restore our iconic Atlantic rainforests and ancient Caledonian pinewoods, and increased woodland creation in Scotland to 18,000 hectares per year, sequestering carbon for decades to come, delivering biodiversity gains and ensuring a reliable supply of raw material for the timber processing sector.
- Maximised the power of our land and forests to help tackle climate change, protect nature and provide good green jobs, by delivering up to 110,000 hectares of restored peatland – four times the size of the Edinburgh City Council area – with 10,700 hectares in 2023-24, an increase of 40% on 2022-23.
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