A NEW report commissioned by the Scottish Wildlife Trust highlights the transformative potential of nature-based solutions for Scottish farms and crofts.
Nature-based solutions can aid farmers and land managers in mitigating climate change impacts by improving soil health, water retention, and resilience to wildfires, floods and heatwaves.
Ellie Brodie, report author said, “This report underscores the critical role that nature-based solutions can play in transforming Scotland’s agriculture. By aligning policies with our National Outcomes and embracing holistic approaches, we have the opportunity to not only address environmental challenges but also foster resilient and sustainable farming practices.”
However, the report has been criticised for failing to include enough farmers in the research and development of the report.
Nikki Yoxall, a regenerative farmer and a member of Scotland’s Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board, said, “Broadly the report makes sense, but the lack of farmers involved is terrible. Only 4 out of 24 people involved in the development of the report are crofters or farmers and three have other roles that brought them to the table. 16% representation is not good enough. eNGOs wonder why they lack traction with agriculture – that’s the reason right there!”
The report calls for a paradigm shift in farming policy to realise the Scottish Government’s vision for Scotland to be a leader in sustainable and regenerative food production, and in doing so address the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and economic uncertainties.
It calls for a higher level of urgency and clarity to be injected into the development of farming policy so that all land managers have information and support to make the changes needed to deliver the Scottish Government’s Vision for Agriculture, including by adopting nature-based solutions.
However Yoxall said, “There are too many contradictions in the report – and not enough representation from the farming and wider rural community for it to be an impactful and useful resource. It’s a real shame, because broadly I’m in agreement with a lot of the content.”
Forestry expert Andrew Heald was also concerned. He said, “I could see no representation from the forestry sector – we urgently need integrated land use policies.”
The report makes a series of recommendations aimed at policy makers, politicians, funders, education and training providers which are pivotal for farmers in several ways:
Sustainable food production – Nature-based solutions are crucial for ensuring sustainable food production in Scotland. These solutions can enhance soil health, reduce the need for expensive and polluting pesticides and fertilisers, and contribute to diversified production systems, ultimately promoting food security.
Economic support – The proposed changes in the Agricultural Reform Programme and the alignment of policies with Nature Networks provide an opportunity for farmers to receive support that can help them navigate economic uncertainties, reduce costs, and make their practices more resilient.
Incentives for change – The recommendations in the report emphasise incentivising public benefits. This means that farmers adopting nature-based solutions could receive payments for supporting a clean water supply or reducing flood risk, fostering a positive transition toward sustainable farming practices.
Rebekah Strong, Terrestrial Policy Manager at Scottish Wildlife Trust said, “Nature-based solutions in agriculture are a cornerstone for promoting biodiversity and mitigating the impact of climate change. This report highlights the potential benefits, demonstrating how sustainable farming practices can coexist with nature, creating healthier ecosystems and contributing to the overall resilience of Scotland’s natural environment.”
Retired farmer Ian Davis commented on X, “It speaks volumes that including more farmers and crofters in policy design and testing is down at recommendation 13.”