New Rural Support Scheme development - evidence: outputs summary

This synthesis report covers twelve written reports providing evidence reviews, analysis, summaries and expert briefings on agriculture in Scotland to shape future policy to help deliver sustainable food production that tackles climate change and nature restoration.

W12 Key considerations when including biodiversity measures within environmental conditionality

Authors: Davy McCracken and Steven Thomson

Ref: RESAS/005/21 – W12

The Report is available in the supporting documents of this publication.

Key Points

Including biodiversity measures within the suite of environmental conditionality being considered for future direct support to agriculture (Tier 2) would help to raise the existing biodiversity bar across all of Scotland's agricultural landscapes. This would also increase the likely effectiveness when more targeted and localised agri-environment actions (Tier 3) are implemented.

The geographical variation in biodiversity needs across Scotland's farmland means that a wide range of appropriate Tier 2 conditional measures will be needed to ensure relevance for principal land uses (cropping, grasslands, rough grazing and importantly woodlands), farming and crofting systems, and localities.

There is a need to ensure that Tier 2 biodiversity conditional measures adopted put as much a focus on maintaining any existing biodiversity value on eligible farm and croft land, as they do on further enhancing that value.

There is a need to fully consider the farmland biodiversity aspirations highlighted within the draft Scottish Biodiversity Strategy to ensure that adopted Tier 2 complement the Strategy's aspirations.

Focussing any test of the implementation of biodiversity conditionality measures within Scotland's National Parks might help identify additional meaningful conditions that can complement the landscape-scale nature restoration aspirations in both Parks.

The number and type of simple, yet effective, biodiversity measures that it would be proportionate to consider within Tier 2 conditionality declines as you move from lowland arable, through permanent grassland to upland landscapes.

Relatively simple biodiversity conditions to implement on rough grazings, the dominant habitat type across Scotland's agricultural land, are more difficult to identify, as in most cases the most appropriate management required varies from site to site.

Nevertheless, it is possible to identify conditionality measures which would be relevant to introduce in upland areas. However, some may not be considered proportionate to introduce as biodiversity conditions in comparison to what is being required on farms elsewhere.

Consideration should be given to how the various measures that constitute RSPB Scotland's HNV indicator could be used as future Tier 2 conditions in grazing areas. The relative biodiversity importance of individual and collective measures that constitute RSPB's metric should be assessed and ground truthed. Embedding such HNV-type conditional measures in the future eligibility criteria associated with the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme replacement should be considered.

It is not necessary nor essential to conduct detailed biodiversity audits before setting biodiversity conditions for farms or crofts to meet. Examples are provided of measures which would be beneficial to implement but which do not require detailed ecological knowledge on farmers' and crofters' part to know where to implement these.



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