Publication - Strategy/plan

Rural Affairs, Food and Environment Research Strategy for 2016 - 2021

Published: 13 Feb 2015

This strategy sets out the principles and processes behind the investment the Scottish Government will make in research for the Rural Affairs, Food and Environment portfolio from 2016 to 2021.

Rural Affairs, Food and Environment Research Strategy for 2016 - 2021
The Rural Affairs, Food and Environment Portfolio in context

The Rural Affairs, Food and Environment Portfolio in context

The Scottish Government Rural Affairs, Food and Environment portfolio is broad, with its policies and activities affecting many aspects of life across Scotland, for example:

  • Rural Scotland extends over 95% of the land area of Scotland and is home to 18% of the Scottish population.
  • Between 2014 and 2020, £1.2 billion will be invested in farming, forestry, crofting and rural development through Scotland's Rural Development Programme.
  • Scotland has a diverse and distinctive range of landscapes that are a significant part of the country's natural and cultural heritage, and which make an important and positive contribution to the economic, cultural and social wellbeing of the nation.
  • Scotland's food and drink exports account for around 30% of the total exports of the country, and were valued at £5.3 billion in 2013.
  • Scottish Government policies are leading in both local and global efforts to tackle climate change, and by moving towards a zero-waste society, encouraging waste to be viewed as a resource, rather than a problem.

Investment in research by the Scottish Government in the Rural Affairs, Food and Environment portfolio is only a part contribution to the broader landscape of science required, and that landscape continues to evolve. Strong alignment between this strategy and others in the same policy space; especially the sectoral strategies in the marine and forestry sectors[2] and the strategies and evidence plans of CAMERAS[3] partners, are important to make.

The public sector landscape is also changing, both as a result of well-documented financial challenges and as new initiatives such as the new food body, Food Standards Scotland - starting in 2015 - take shape. The Rural Affairs, Food and Environment portfolio must therefore operate against a background of on-going change, and will need to adapt and innovate to respond effectively to emerging issues.

The portfolio of strategic scientific research supports the development and delivery of Rural Affairs, Food and Environment policies and the achievement of the Scottish Government's single purpose. There is a particular focus on supporting a Greener, Smarter and Wealthier Scotland, contributing towards the achievement of a number of national outcomes including:

  • We value and enjoy our built and natural environment and protect it and enhance it for future generations;
  • We reduce the local and global environmental impact of our consumption and production;
  • We are better educated, more skilled and more successful, renowned for our research and innovation.

Our long-term investment and support in Scotland's capability and capacity in the areas of land-based sciences, has created a resource unique to Scotland in the form of our Main Research Providers (MRPs)[4], and both that research and the MRPs we support contribute to the fulfilment of these outcomes.

Funding strategic research programmes at these institutes represents 60-65% of our overall investment over recent years. They are however not the only source from which expertise is drawn, nor does the work they do represent the full extent of our science needs.

There are a wide range of questions the portfolio needs to explore, such as understanding the extent of, and opportunities created by, vehicle recycling as we move towards a Zero Waste Scotland, through to examining the potential for deep geothermal energy in Scotland. These types of policy-driven questions are also supported by our research funding through wider collaborations with Higher Education Institutes and Industry.


Email: Liam Kelly