Scottish Government and Scottish Green Party: draft shared policy programme
Working together to build a greener, fairer, independent Scotland.
Our natural environment
In this section:
- National parks
- Regional Land Use Partnerships
- Forestry and woodlands
- Land reform
- Marine protection
- Species protection
- Good Food Nation Bill
The Scottish Government and Scottish Green Party agree that Scotland must urgently play its full part in tackling the twin global crises of climate and nature.
We commit to a Natural Environment Bill aiming at introduction in year three of this parliamentary session. This will follow on from the new biodiversity strategy which is due to be published in 2022.
The Bill will:
- put in place key legislative changes to restore and protect nature, including, but not restricted to, targets for nature restoration that cover land and sea, and an effective, statutory, target-setting monitoring, enforcing and reporting framework
- contain targets based on an overarching goal of preventing any further extinctions of wildlife and halting declines by 2030, and making significant progress in restoring Scotland’s natural environment by 2045
- contain targets that are achievable and challenging, reflecting the priority for early action in this agreement. These targets will be developed in consideration of available evidence and through consultation, and are expected to include outcome targets that accommodate species abundance, distribution & extinction risk, and habitat quality and extent. The targets will reflect the challenges of a changing climate
- cover key actions to deliver our targets, including our agreement to protect 30% of Scotland’s land and seas by 2030, and highly protect 10%
These targets, like our climate targets, will drive action across Government, including farming and fisheries policies and legislation.
The development of proposals for a Natural Environment Bill will reflect emerging policy in the EU and the results of the CoP15 on Biodiversity, in order to ensure Scotland remains in step with our European neighbours and delivers our commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
We will agree a new approach to ensuring the interests of future generations are accountable in decisions made today, including exploring a Future Generations Commission.
We recognise that halting the declines means we need to invest in the restoration of the natural environment now for the sake of future generations. This means ensuring nature restoration and the principles of regenerative agriculture are a key aim of the reformed agricultural support scheme, and it means investing more through the nature restoration fund.
The Nature Restoration Fund, established this year following an agreement between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party, will be expanded over the duration of this parliamentary session and encompass multi-year funding. It will make an important contribution to meeting our targets and restoring Scotland’s terrestrial and marine environment through, for example, restoring and expanding our Atlantic rainforests, and the establishment of nature networks across Scotland.
We agree that a review of environmental justice and the case for an environmental court should take place during this parliamentary session, undertaken in line with section 41 of the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Act 2021 and to commence by spring 2023.
The Scottish Government and Scottish Green Party believe that our National Parks bring many positive benefits to our environment and our economy.
We believe National and Regional parks have an important role to play in protecting Scotland’s landscapes, restoring our environment and opening up access to quality greenscape to all.
We believe that National Parks should be designated only in response to local community demand, so we encourage communities, stakeholders and local government to come forward with proposals, which we would expect to accommodate progressive land use, be smaller in scale than existing parks and to demonstrate good value for money.
We will designate at least one new National Park by the end of this session, provided relevant legal conditions can be met. This will support progressive development, address the climate emergency in the way we use our land, and improve public and community wellbeing. We will make funding available to support these ambitions.
We also agree to increase the amount of funding available to improve visitor facilities, safety measures and access opportunities, including in existing regional parks.
The Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party believe that Scotland should be a global leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture. We will ensure the sector makes the emission reductions required to contribute to Scotland’s world-leading emissions targets, to support and deliver nature restoration and a just transition to net zero, and to produce high quality food.
We therefore agree to build on the work done by the government in this area during the last parliamentary session, through the Farmer-led Groups and the Farming and Food Production Future Policy Group, and the Climate Change Plan update as well as work done by others, including Farming for 1.5, WWF, the Scottish Food Coalition and Just Transition Commission.
We will work with the sector and stakeholders to bring forward a consultation on the options for future agriculture and wider land use support through a Bill to replace the current Common Agricultural Policy framework for agriculture and land use support. The Bill will be introduced in 2023 to deliver:
- a new support framework that will include delivering climate mitigation and adaptation, nature restoration and high quality food production
- integration of enhanced conditionality against public benefits, with targeted outcomes for biodiversity gain and low emissions production
- increased equality of opportunity, improving business resilience, efficiency and profitability
We also agree that:
- we will ensure that farmers, crofters and land managers have the right support to deliver high farming standards and low emissions farming
- we will continue to improve the rights of tenant farmers and small holders so they are not disadvantaged from actively participating in climate change mitigation and adaptation
- we will explore providing small landholders with the same pre-emptive right to buy as crofters and 1991 Act tenant farmers, and the treatment of the land under their houses
- we will provide more support for women in agriculture and for new and young entrants into farming
- with a view to re-joining the EU, we will, where practicable, stay aligned with new EU measures and policy developments ensuring Scotland prioritises the transition to net zero, the restoration of nature and the sustainable production of high quality food
- we will support the necessary change in land use in Scotland in line with the recommendations of the Just Transition Commission
- we will support the growth of the organic farming sector through the establishment of a new Organic Food and Farming Action Plan with ambitious targets for at least the doubling of the area of land under organic management by the end of this parliamentary session
Regional Land Use Partnerships
The Scottish Government and Scottish Green Party believe that Regional Land Use Partnerships (RLUPs) can help to facilitate the land use change needed to address the twin environmental and climate crises, and support a just transition. To deliver their potential, RLUPs need to be democratic inclusive and local, which is why the Scottish Government launched a set of full-scale pilot RLUPs this year to test and develop ways to:
- take a democratic, inclusive and local approach to governance and decision-making
- adopt a natural capital approach to land use change
- produce Regional Land Use Frameworks which can meet national as well as regional priorities
- maximise their influence in engaging regional stakeholders
If the five pilots established this year can demonstrate that they meet expectations relating to the above, and show that they have taken a democratic, local approach, we will:
- develop plans for a second phase from 2023 building on learning from the five pilots, aiming for further roll out across the country before the future rural support scheme is established
- ensure that RLUPs take into consideration the delivery of statutory climate and nature targets on a regional basis
- consider how RLUPs can influence public funding streams
Forestry and woodlands
The Scottish Government and Scottish Green Party believe that forestry and the restoration of Scotland’s native woodlands are a key growth area for Scotland, and crucial to delivering on our climate change targets, tackling the biodiversity crisis, and generating sustainable economic activity in our rural communities.
We want to expand Scotland’s forests through significant investment in ambitious woodland creation targets, balancing productive forestry and native woodlands. These new forests will bring a range of benefits including green, sustainable jobs, proven carbon sequestration, improved biodiversity, and the opportunity for everyone in Scotland to enjoy the physical and mental health advantages of easy access to high-quality forests and woodlands.
We therefore agree to increase woodland creation in line with existing recently increased targets, and to explore opportunities to go further and faster, particularly on nature restoration. Specifically, we will:
- increase annual woodland creation targets to 18,000 hectares per year by 2024/25. We will increase the annual native woodland creation target from 3000 to 4000 hectares and commit to setting evidence-based targets for both native woodlands and natural regeneration as part of the 2022 Biodiversity Strategy
- increase Forestry Land Scotland’s capacity to grow the public forest through the acquisition of land, particularly in National and Regional Parks, by increasing capital funding. This is woodland that is owned by the public, for the public, for the long-term. This prioritises access, nature restoration and protection and other public benefits
- further protect Scotland’s ancient woods through establishing a National Register of Ancient Woodlands, and by encouraging owners and managers to maintain them and improve their condition, providing support through the Forestry Grant Scheme
We also agree:
- to consult on ways to increase easily accessible, sustainably managed woodlands, including native woodlands, in urban or peri-urban areas, as part of a just transition
- to explore the opportunities to pilot landscape-scale projects involving natural regeneration of woodlands, possibly within the existing National and Regional Parks
- to support public sector bodies, as part of their statutory duty under the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Act 2018, to identify and implement opportunities to increase tree cover on land they own and manage, with an emphasis on native woodland and natural regeneration. We will explore if further legislative changes are required to strengthen the duty on public bodies
- to ensure that the replacement for the Common Agricultural Policy ring-fences funds for tree planting, orchard creation, and woodland regeneration, as well as support for the development of rural businesses linked with forestry
- that the recommendations of the Deer Management Working Group will be implemented as set out in the Scottish Government’s response of March 2021, and agricultural support schemes will encourage a reduction in grazing pressure in the uplands
The Scottish Government and Scottish Green Party have longstanding commitments to land reform and believe that continued progress on land reform is essential. There should be a more diverse pattern of land ownership and tenure and a significantly higher proportion of land should be owned in Scotland by the communities that live and work there, as well as land held for the public good by the public sector.
We therefore agree that there shall be a wide-ranging consultation on land reform proposals with a spectrum of stakeholders for inclusion in a Land Reform Bill to be introduced by the end of 2023.
Recognising that devolved competence constrains what we can do, we aim to deliver legal mechanisms to tackle scale and concentration of land ownership in rural and urban Scotland. This will include a public interest test to apply to transfers of particularly large scale land holdings which will include a right of pre-emption in favour of community buy out where the public interest test applies.
We agree that the Scottish Land Fund be doubled from £10 million to £20 million per annum by the end of this parliamentary session.
We also agree:
- that every opportunity should be taken to ensure that Scotland’s people are able to live and work sustainably on our land and that communities benefit from the land use changes necessary to address the twin environmental and climate crises, and support a just transition
- that rural repopulation is a vital objective, alongside nature-based solutions
The Scottish Government and Scottish Green Party believe that Scotland should have a sustainable, diverse, competitive and economically viable aquaculture industry. It must operate within environmental limits and with social licence and ensure there is a thriving marine ecosystem for future generations.
We agree with the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity and Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committees that the status quo of aquaculture regulation is not an option.
- reform the regulatory and planning framework, starting with an independent review to consider the effectiveness and efficiency of the current regime and make recommendations for further work by the end of 2021
- develop a vision and strategy for sustainable aquaculture that places an enhanced emphasis on environmental protection and community benefits
- begin an immediate programme of work to better protect wildlife and the environment, including a response to the Salmon Interactions Working Group in September 2021, consultation on a spatially adaptive sea lice risk assessment framework for fish farms by the end of the year, and strengthened controls on sea lice, wrasse and fish escapes in the course of 2021/22
- explore how best to ensure that fish farming contributes more to support communities and recreational fisheries, to promote innovation and to support services such as fish health and welfare inspections and monitoring
The Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party believe that the marine environment should be clean, healthy, safe, productive and diverse, and managed to meet the long term needs of nature and people.
As part of this vision we are determined to make a step change in marine protection and to deliver on our shared commitment to achieve and maintain good environmental status for all of Scotland’s seas, offshore and inshore. The measures we have agreed for enhanced marine protection will make Scotland an international leader in this field.
We specifically commit to restoring marine habitats in Scotland’s inshore waters, with the aim of achieving good environmental status, recognising that those waters contain valuable blue carbon hot spots, nursery grounds for fish stocks and an array of rich marine wildlife and biodiversity.
- deliver fisheries management measures for existing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) where these are not already in place, as well as key coastal biodiversity locations outside of these sites, by March 2024 at the latest, directly following the conclusion of the required statutory consultation processes. These measures will give protection for MPA features, as well as those priority marine features identified as most at risk from bottom-contacting mobile fishing gear outwith MPAs
- add to the existing MPA network by designating a world-leading suite of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) covering at least 10% of our seas that:
- includes designations in both offshore and inshore waters
- exceeds the commitment to ‘strict protection’ by 2030 made in the EU biodiversity strategy by achieving this by 2026 for inshore waters (in respect of which Scottish Ministers have devolved powers) and, subject to the cooperation of the UK Government, by the same year for offshore waters (where the Scottish Parliament does not have legislative competence)
- will provide additional environmental protection over and above the existing MPA network (including when all management measures are applied in MPAs as outlined above), by establishing sites which will provide protection from all extractive, destructive or depositional activities including all fisheries, aquaculture and other infrastructure developments, while allowing other activities, such as tourism or recreational water activities, at non-damaging levels (making them equivalent to ‘marine parks’), and
- in cases where these sites overlap with current MPAs, provide extra environmental protection additional to that afforded by existing MPAs. Our clear common purpose is to deliver a significant total increase in the level of environmental protection applicable to Scotland’s seas, in support of achieving and maintaining good environmental status for our waters
- take specific, evidence-based measures to protect the inshore seabed in areas outwith MPAs and HPMAs. As an interim step, we will consult as soon as practicable on proposals to:
- apply a cap to fishing activity in inshore waters (up to three nautical miles) that will limit activity to current levels and set a ceiling from which activities that disrupt the seabed can be reduced in the light of evidence as it becomes available
- keep that limit under review, pending fuller consideration and gathering of evidence to underpin any further actions required to protect inshore marine habitats. These could span a suite of options and could potentially include spatial management measures if suggested by the evidence
- through this system, provide access only to vessels that hold a licence which has a historic track record of fishing activity in inshore waters over a recent reference period
- in the first instance and in the interests of delivering this as soon as possible, bring this measure into effect by varying certain existing licence conditions pending the introduction of appropriate legislative measures, and
- also review the status of any unused ‘latent’ scallop fishing entitlements. Where no investment has already been made to activate that entitlement, such as vessel conversion in cases where an owner has committed to changing fishing method, these entitlements would be revoked
We will deliver the suite of HPMAs through a policy and selection framework that provides for:
- balanced representation of the ecology of Scotland’s seas and their geographical spread from the coast to the deep sea, encompassing both inshore and offshore environments.
- the recovery of priority marine features, which mostly lie within inshore waters, as a core purpose of the designation criteria
- ecosystem recovery and biodiversity enhancement, including protection of blue carbon and critical fish habitats
- account to be taken of socio-economic factors affecting the resilience and viability of marine industries and the coastal communities which depend on them
- public engagement and consultation at all key stages of policy development, site selection and assessment, and designation
This package of measures for MPAs and HPMAs within the inshore area will be delivered within the legislative framework set by the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and in accordance with Scotland’s National Marine Plan, as well as through new provisions, as required, included within the Natural Environment Bill to be delivered in the third year of this parliamentary session. The 2010 framework enshrines an evidence-based approach. We will ensure that comprehensive evidence continues to be gathered to inform our decisions and we will continue to develop the evidence base to underpin future decision-making.
We will ensure more effective compliance by extending the requirement for Vessel Tracking and Monitoring Systems across the whole commercial fishing fleet by the end of the current parliamentary session, and increasing capacity and capability in marine monitoring and protection.
We will be guided by just transition principles and will establish a programme to address socio-economic impacts on affected marine industries.
We commit to delivering HPMA designations that lie within devolved legislative competence (in inshore waters) by 2026 and we call on the UK Government to work with us to enable delivery of HPMA designations in Scotland’s offshore waters within the same timeframe.
While Scottish Ministers currently have some executively devolved powers in the offshore zone, the Scottish Parliament does not have legislative competence over marine environmental matters in this zone and the Scottish Government is therefore dependant on the UK Government to provide the necessary powers. In this regard, we jointly call on the UK Government to correct this longstanding anomaly in the devolution settlement by agreeing to full devolution of legislative competence in this area.
We also recognise that where HPMA designations require the relocation of human activity there may in some instances be a need for a transitional ‘phasing out’ period following the point of designation, to ensure a fair and just transition to a state of high protection. Any such period would be time-limited with a clear end point.
We will review the wider species licensing system with a view to ensuring that the law is being applied correctly and that lethal control is only licensed where the conditions required for such a licence are demonstrably being met.
The review will also assess the potential to apply the principle of full cost recovery to species licensing and the introduction of a public register of licenses to improve transparency, bearing in mind data protection and safety of licence holders.
We agree that urgent action is needed to tackle wildlife crime and to address the environmental impacts of intensive grouse moor management.
We will support the transition to more economically and environmentally productive uses of land where appropriate and deliver the recommendations of the Grouse Moor Management Review Group as a matter of urgency, including the licensing of grouse moors.
Licensing or further regulation will cover the key areas identified in the review, including muirburn, wildlife control, the use of medicated grit and wildlife crime. Licensing will be supported by clear penalties to encourage compliance, as well as additional effort to detect wildlife crime.
The independent taskforce to consider whether the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scottish SPCA) should be given extra powers to investigate wildlife crime will be asked to report back by in a timeframe that will allow any changes to the Scottish SPCA powers to be delivered by legislation implementing changes to grouse and other wildlife management in the course of this parliamentary session.
We support the continued expansion of the beaver population. Where practicable, more use will be made of translocation of beavers, including considering other locations in Scotland. Financial and practical support will be made available to facilitate translocation.
Good Food Nation Bill
The Scottish Government and Scottish Green Party believe that Scotland should continue to be a Good Food Nation, where people from every walk of life take pride and pleasure in, and benefit from, the food they produce, buy, cook, serve and eat each day.
We therefore agree that the Good Food Nation Bill, to be introduced this parliamentary session, will:
- underpin, on a statutory basis, the work that is already being done across the Scottish Government to support the Good Food Nation policy
- place duties on the Scottish Ministers and certain public authorities to produce statements of policy in relation to food and make provision as to the effect of those statements
- require those statements to set out the main outcomes to be achieved in relation to food-related issues, the policies needed to do this and the indicators or other measures required to assess progress
We also agree that:
- the Ministerial Working Group on Food should be reinstated
- a Human Rights Bill will be brought forward which will give effect to international human rights law in Scots law, including a right to adequate food, as part of the overall right to an adequate standard of living
- consideration should be given to the need for a statutory body, such as a Food Commission
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