Food Production Paramount for ‘Squeezed Middle’

NFUS chief addresses land use debate

While the bulk of Scotland’s productive land is open to an increasing list of land use demands, NFU Scotland believes that its capability to produce food should be paramount.

Speaking at the James Hutton Institute’s ‘Squeezed Middle’ debate in Edinburgh today (30 August), NFUS Chief Executive Scott Walker said that the production of food had a proven track record in delivering environmental, social and economic benefits and that this should be kept to the fore in evolving land use policies.

The ‘squeezed middle’ refers to the land use pressure placed on the majority of Scotland’s more productive farmland.  This is the land that sits between the very best of Scotland’s arable ground and the highest moors and mountains.  The debate is part of a series launched by the James Hutton Institute to address the core issues and challenges facing the way in which land and natural resources are used.

Speaking in Edinburgh, Mr Walker said:

“This ‘squeezed middle’ ground is the engine room of an increasingly successful Scottish food and farming sector.  However, there are an increasing number of competing demands on that land that could take away Scottish agriculture’s capacity for production at a time when demand for food has never been greater and food price inflation is predicted to rise sharply. 

“Those demands, whether for the likes of forestry, biodiversity or renewable energy are justifiable but they need to be moulded around our ongoing capacity to continue to produce high quality food in Scotland.

“Scottish agriculture has a great track record in meeting many of these demands.   The production of food in Scotland has shaped the landscape and biodiversity that many of us take for granted while continuing to deliver jobs and economic growth despite the ongoing deep recession. 

“As a nation, many have now lost the daily direct contact that families once had with farming but all are still benefiting from the health of our farming and food sectors.  We take food and the landscape for granted but central to both is the need to keep farmers farming the ‘squeezed middle’.

“No single hectare of Scotland’s ‘squeezed middle’ can meet all the demands that society may place on it but farming is uniquely placed to deliver food production and a host of environmental, economic and social benefits.”

Notes to Editors

  • The James Hutton Institute has launched a series of debates addressing the core issues and challenges facing the way in which land and natural resources are used.
  • The first of this series, the Squeezed Middle Debate, took place at the Royal Society of Edinburgh today (30 August).   It focussed on the land zones which exist between quality farmland and high mountains, in which it is especially challenging to plan the right blend of land uses to best meet policy objectives and societal demands
  • This ‘squeezed middle’ zone is equivalent to the Macaulay Land Capability for Agriculture Classes 3.2 -6.1. Whilst the main policy priority for prime agricultural land (class 1- 3.1) is food production; that for the moors and mountains (class 6.2 -7) is usually sporting and conservation use with some forestry and rough grazing; this squeezed middle is subject to many competing pressures.


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 92/12

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