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Scotland is leading the way to net-zero carbon farming, report finds

Professor Lorna Dawson, of the James Hutton Institute, led the inquiry
"A system change is required to deal with our climate emergency situation which challenges individuals, farmers, growers, consumers, communities and society as a whole"

Scotland is leading the way when it comes to meeting challenges such as net-zero carbon and land reform, a new report finds. Scotland Field Guide For The Future is a report from the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) Scotland, with the James Hutton Institute, and is funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

It highlights how Scotland’s farmers and others in the countryside sector are meeting key challenges – including meeting net-zero, shifting to agroecology, and demand for improved ethical livestock standards – and is intended to inspire action from others in food and farming in rural Scotland.

It follows an extensive bike-tour across the country, a series of roundtables, workshops and consultations, and is part of the UK-wide RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission which reported in summer.

The report looks at inspiring examples of innovation, including the Scottish Agriculture Organisation Society (SAOS), an umbrella co-op development organisation and a co-op itself, which act as experts in co-operation and supply chain collaboration helping support groups such as:

  • The East of Scotland Growers, a progressive vegetable marketing co-op and one of the largest producers of broccoli in the UK which helps members innovate through operating at the cutting edge of brassica production – for example, developing an innovative, healthy broccoli crisp snack, Growers Garden, from broccoli waste.
  • Scottish Pig Producers, a pig marketing co-op owned by 110 pig farmers in Scotland and Northern Ireland. SPP plays a leading role in industry and market developments to maximize value for its farmer members. They operate Wholesome Pigs (Scotland) which drives improvements in pig health and welfare through information analysis and reporting, along with the emergency response facility for any potential disease outbreak.

Land reform remains a challenge in both urban and rural areas, the report notes, highlighting some of the challenges and opportunities facing the Scottish Land Commission, founded in 2017.

Meanwhile, the ethical dairy, Cream o’ Galloway, are helping encourage organic and high welfare produce, responding to increasing consumer concerns about dairy practices. And pasture fed beef and lamb reared on land unsuitable for growing other food represents an efficient use of land, while playing an important role in Scotland and the UK’s diet.

In its July report, the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission called for the Westminster government to shift to ‘agroecology’ farming, working with the devolved administrations.

Professor Lorna Dawson, James Hutton Institute and RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Scotland Inquiry Lead, said:

“A system change is required to deal with our climate emergency situation which challenges individuals, farmers, growers, consumers, communities and society as a whole. We must engage, understand and learn from those acting or being affected on the ground, something high on our Scotland Inquiry priorities as well as the wider Food, Farming and Countryside Commission's agenda.

“Choices and decisions will have to be made regarding the best course of action to take. To make informed-decisions on the local scale trade-offs between one form of land use or management strategy and another is vital to our future in Scotland. As a nation with a large and highly developed agriculture sector that is also working under ambitious and visionary climate change mitigation targets, Scotland provides an exemplar of the challenges climate change poses to our food systems and how these challenges can be addressed.

“We sought to find out how farmers and growers felt and how they were incorporating health and wellbeing into their work. We found that people across Scotland are bringing the two together - choosing to farm for healthier produce and kickstarting the supply chain to make good food available to customers. Local authorities are ensuring that schools and hospitals serve healthy, nutritious food through public procurement. Farmers are coming together to support each other through the particular challenges of modern rural life being an important part of the solution.

“Farmers are helping in many ways – as exemplified in the report- by increasing carbon sequestration, halting the loss of vital biodiversity, promoting wildlife habitats, restoring soils and planting trees - responding in a positive way with many innovative solutions to the climate emergency and biodiversity loss.  Farmers and farming groups are very much part of the solution to the issues of climate change and biodiversity loss.

“Examples are given in the report showing where research, evidence and innovation on the topics of food, farming and the countryside is available in Scotland, and research groups are coming together to help provide the tools to enable the best choices to be made. 

"From the soil beneath our feet to the environment around us, it has also become the ground on which people's different hopes and fears are being played out, raising some difficult questions about what our land is for, and who decides. Across Scotland, people are thinking strategically and practically (with the available evidence) about how best to use land and ensure that it is passed on to the next generation in a fair and equitable way and in a good shape to sustain future generations. Education, co-operation and collaboration are vitally important to ensure that there is access to the right information at the right time so that the right decisions are made to create a flourishing rural economy in Scotland for all.”

Sue Pritchard, director of the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, added:

“The climate and ecosystem emergency are not the only crises we face. The scale of the public health challenge is clear, from poor diets and mental health to the effects of pollution and antibiotic resistance. Currently, what we eat, and how we produce it, is damaging people and the planet.

“Wherever we end up with Brexit, it’s critical that we all ensure that our food and farming system works for climate, nature, rural communities, and for the public’s health and wellbeing.

“The Scottish Government’s declaration of a climate emergency and Climate Act are hugely welcome, but we also need a change in practice to meet our challenges. This report sets out some of the excellent work currently taking place and we urge others keen to regenerate ecosystems to adopt many of these practices.”

Notes to editors:

The RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission (FFCC) is an independent inquiry, funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and chaired by Sir Ian Cheshire. It investigates how policy, business and citizens together shape our food and farming systems and rural economies – what works, what doesn’t and how a more integrated and inclusive approach would drive radical change over the next ten years. The final report, published in July 2019, set out a vision for the future and a framework for change to speed up the transition to a more sustainable food and farming system which can be implemented by governments, businesses and citizens. The report focused on three core themes:

  • Healthy food is everybody’s business: levelling the playing field for a fair food system
  • Farming is a force for change, unleashing a fourth agricultural revolution driven by public values
  • A countryside that works for all and rural communities are a powerhouse for a fair and green economy

The Commission’s Scotland Inquiry was chaired by Professor Lorna Dawson of the James Hutton Institute, and members were drawn from a range of food, farming, environmental, health, community and academic backgrounds.

The Commission is drawing on the wide cross-sector interest and support to develop the recommendations further and build the progressive alliances to help put them into practice – a ‘community on a mission’.

The RSA [Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce] is an independent charity whose mission is to enrich society through ideas and action. Its work covers a number of areas including the rise of the 'gig economy', robotics & automation; education & creative learning; and reforming public services to put communities in control.

More information from: 

Ash Singleton, RSA Head of Media & Communications, 07799 737 970, or Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, James Hutton Institute, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


Printed from /news/scotland-leading-way-net-zero-carbon-farming-report-finds on 20/11/19 05:41:57 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.