Environment and Land Use Committee Chairman, Angus MacFadyen's Blog - 31 July 2020

Regional Land Use Partnerships could deliver a more targeted response to Scotland’s ambitious climate change targets writes Argyllshire farmer Angus MacFadyen.

In recent months, the topic of Regional Land Use Partnerships (RLUPs) has generated a lot of discussion within NFU Scotland’s Environment and Land Use Committee which I chair.  

With the recent publication of the Scottish Land Commission’s interim report on RLUPs, we have been building on this work and are keen to keep the conversation going with NFU Scotland members.

RLUPs present a real opportunity for Scotland’s farmers and crofters if they are implemented correctly. They have the potential to empower more local decision-making, support rural communities and help protect the natural environment.

One of the main drivers behind the creation of these Partnerships stems from the Scottish Government’s ambition to tackle climate change. The Programme for Government identifies RLUPs as a means to maximise the potential of land to contribute to the fight against climate change. The Climate Change Act passed by the Scottish Government last November makes reference to RLUPs and sets ambitious targets for Scotland to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. It is clear that agriculture has an important role to play in achieving these targets.

These Partnerships could allow us to take a more targeted approach to land use in Scotland in response to climate change challenges and will be a great asset if we are able to balance local priorities with national ambitions.  They could provide the opportunity to work strategically and collaboratively to tackle climate change whilst continuing to improve biodiversity and protecting the natural environment – all of which are extremely important issues for the Environment and Land Use Committee.

It is my view that to be successful, RLUPs need to operate at a scale that reflects the variation of land types in Scotland. They must reflect the diversity of the landscape and the reality that the way land is managed in Scotland varies from place to place.  There are many positive examples of partnership working, such as the Tweed Forum, that have functioned well for farmers and crofters and that we can learn from.

I believe it is essential that active farmers and crofters are involved in each of these Partnerships from the outset. We need to ensure that the agricultural sector is represented, and that practical knowledge and land management experience is incorporated into decisions made by RLUPs. Farmers and crofters play a vital role in our rural communities, and so their views must be included and respected in decision-making processes.

RLUPs could also have implications for the allocation of future agricultural support. The Scottish Land Commission has set out its view that Partnerships present an opportunity to create a step change in how public funding is delivered and targeted, to achieve national targets, including climate change. It is essential that we are central to these discussions around funding going forward to ensure that future support systems are appropriate and reflect the views of the sector.

In my last blog, I wrote that the existing positive actions made by farmers and crofters must be recognised and rewarded, and that public goods that come about as a result of good farming practice should not come at a private cost to individual farmers.

We need to see a bottom-up approach in Scotland that builds payments around positive outcomes, rather than outdated calculations of income foregone and additional costs. We also need to move away from prescriptive measures and complexities around compliance; we need to see systems and policies that are easy to access that can be easily implemented by farmers, crofters and land managers on the ground.

RLUPs have the potential to be transformative and have a big impact on the agriculture sector. It is important that we continue to engage constructively on this topic, and I encourage NFU Scotland members to respond to our consultation on this issue, which can be done online here

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