Policy Spotlight: Delivering our Vision for Scottish Agriculture – proposals for a new agriculture bill

Hazel Johnson, Policy & Strategy Manager highlights the role of the historic environment in the new bill, A Vision for Scottish Agriculture.

Views are being sought on a new Agriculture Bill which will underpin Scottish agricultural policy for years to come.

BEFS is hearing from the sector that the proposed new bill fails to recognise the contribution of the historic environment. This lack of recognition of the role of the historic environment, and any connection to existing historic environment polices and guidance, is a missed opportunity.

Farmers, crofters and land managers look after a significant amount of our archaeological heritage and built historic environment, such as the drystone walls, hedgerows and historic rural buildings that give our countryside it’s character.

The existing and historic built environment, whilst often recognised in part, frequently lacks full integration within other national policies; it delivers ecosystems services benefits including habitats, carbon retention and supporting soil health. We know that existing buildings and infrastructure are positive solutions across a variety of policy areas, they should not sit separately.

The Proposal

The Scottish Government is proposing to align Scottish agricultural funding with the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy objectives, which include the management of landscapes and of landscape features. However, the consultation paper is silent on the contribution of the historic environment. Any modern system of agricultural payments should recognise both the importance of the historic environment and incentivise farmers to look after it to ensure that, through good management, it can continue to benefit people now and in the future.

If we don’t at least maintain the current system for farm payments, where some funding is channelled towards heritage projects and general stewardship, this will be detrimental over the long term.

However, there is scope to do much more by including the historic environment – designated and undesignated – on the face of the bill, and to raise the profile of the historic environment at this early stage of the legislative process.

An example of what can be achieved is set by Wales, in their recent agricultural bill.

The consultation closes on the 21st of November.