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
Research themes for 2016-2021

Research themes for 2016-2021

Research Themes

The current science needs of the Rural Affairs, Food and Environment portfolio can be captured in three strategic, but highly interlinked, research themes that support the widest range of specific policy outcomes, and address the key drivers of the portfolio.

The rationale for the Theme structure outlined above is to simplify the research landscape and emphasise the close ties that exist between them all. Consequently, the Theme titles express broad areas under which research needs arise, but there is a high degree of connectivity between all three. For example:

  • sustainable agriculture should both draw upon and contribute to natural assets, and will also contribute to economic and social outcomes;
  • the well-being of a rural community can be measured in many different ways and is subject to a range of factors which may include elements of social cohesion, the natural assets it has access to and economic considerations.

This overlapping structure makes clear that bringing together skills from across our research community will continue to be important to deliver excellent science that has impact when translated into practical use. The complex interactions described will also need system-based approaches to be applied, in order that the new knowledge and insights generated from research are to contribute to delivering the Scottish Government overarching vision of sustainable economic growth.

The three Themes are:

  • A Food, Health and Wellbeing Theme - the health, wellbeing and economic performance of our local rural economies, through community-led innovation, good local environmental quality, and secure supply chains, are central to this theme. Building our understanding of how economic and social resilience of rural areas of Scotland can be enhanced through the empowerment of communities is central to place-based policy. Our research on food and drink will inform how the performance of our food and drink sector can be enhanced, what a healthy sustainable diet looks like and how this can be encouraged, and the role of short food supply networks within the broader challenge of ensuring food security in Scotland.
  • Outcomes of this work will include:

    • Helping understand how flourishing and resilient communities emerge, and practical ways to encourage their development;
    • Safer food and more secure food supply chains across Scotland;
    • Advice that can contributes to developing a healthier and more sustainable Scottish diet;
    • Increased uptake of key low carbon and other behaviours that contribute to broader societal wellbeing across Scotland;
    • Understanding and defining what form of diverse and resilient energy networks can be achieved in rural Scotland.

Some of the key policy drivers and policy needs for the work of this Theme include: Community Empowerment Bill, Food (Scotland) Bill, Fragile communities, Good Food Nation, Land and Land Tenure Reform, Land Use Strategy, LEADER programme, Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme, Place-based policies, Prevention of obesity routemap, Public sector equalities duties, Recipe for Success, Report on Proposals and Policies, Supporting Healthy Choices, Welfare Reform.

  • A Productive and Sustainable Land Management and Rural Economies Theme - in recognising that farming is one of a number of important land use activities in the wider rural economy, we need to continue to find novel means to improve land management decisions and raise productivity while enhancing the environmental sustainability of existing and future agricultural systems. In addition, we need to understand the measures that will be most effective in supporting the diversity of rural industries, will help improve our food and other primary production, and help Scottish rural businesses to innovate, adapt and thrive in response to future challenges, climatic or otherwise.
  • Outcomes of this work will include:

    • An increasingly innovative and competitive Scottish rural economy;
    • A more profitable and sustainable Scottish food and drink industry;
    • Improved land use and land management choices;
    • Productive, profitable and sustainable agriculture, based on improved health and welfare of livestock practices throughout Scotland;
    • Greater application of integrated pest and disease management across Scottish farming.

Some of the key policy drivers and policy needs for the work of this Theme include: Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, Circular economy roadmap, Common Agricultural Policy reform, Community Renewable Energy targets, Good Food Nation, Land Reform, Plant Health Directive 2000, Plant Health (Scotland) Order 2005, Prevention of obesity routemap, Report on Proposals and Policies, Resource Efficient Scotland, Scotland Rural Development Programme, Supporting Healthy Choices.

  • A Natural Assets Theme - by focussing on understanding the natural capacity of Scotland, we can continue to improve the frameworks for decision making across all aspects of our environment. Recognising that diversity of living species is key to many services we depend on, those choices will be informed to ensure the integrity, health and function of key ecosystem services are maintained, and also take into account the multiple objectives that the people of Scotland seek from these natural assets.
  • Outcomes for this Theme will include:

    • Improved quality of our natural assets to maximise the benefits that society gains from them;
    • Climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies that are increasingly optimised for the conditions and economy of Scotland;
    • Greater use of low carbon and efficient waste management systems that are appropriate to Scotland;
    • Greater use of integrated approaches to the management of water and land resources by land managers and regulators to secure multiple benefits;
    • Development of approaches to river flooding and coastal erosion that are increasingly managed through appropriate land use practices.

Some of the key drivers for the work of this Theme include: Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, Common Agricultural Policy, Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) and the Aichi targets, Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009, Land Use Strategy, Our Place in Time, Report on Proposals and Policies, Scotland Rural Development Programme, Biodiversity 2020 Challenge, Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme, Scottish Soil Framework, The Water Supplies (Water Quality)(Scotland) Regulations 2014, Water Environment & Water Services Act 2003.


Email: Liam Kelly