Ten Priorities for Scottish Government
Soil Association Scotland wants to see our government join the dots between the interconnected climate, nature, and dietary health crises.
The case for integrated climate and nature solutions has been underlined by the recent IPCC-IPBES joint report by 50 of the world’s leading experts on biodiversity and climate change. Among the most important actions identified are an increase in sustainable agricultural and forestry practices.
We believe that requires a transition to agroecology – climate and nature-friendly farming practices – alongside a shift to more healthy and sustainable diets.
Here in Scotland, the future direction of food, farming and land use policy will be crucial.
These are 10 priority areas that we think the Scottish Government should focus on for the next five years.
1. Bring forward a Good Food Nation Bill and use it to raise awareness of and normalise healthy and sustainable diets – and set a target to reduce Ultra-Processed Foods (UPFs)
Scotland can lead the way with a Good Food Nation bill that defines good food in law, normalises healthy and sustainable diets and ensures the Scottish public sector is a beacon of good food. It can also respond to the growing body of evidence linking UPFs with poor health outcomes by committing to a target of reducing UPFs in the national diet, as has happened in France.
2. Set out a clear plan to use government buying power (public procurement) to promote healthy and sustainable diets and quality Scottish produce
The success of Food for Life Scotland has shown the benefits of providing locally sourced food for school dinner menus. Public procurement can be a tool to meet targets for growing the organic sector while encouraging the consumption of more high-quality Scottish food and drink produce – including more fruit, nuts, vegetables, and pulses.
3. Expand Food for Life to all council areas and in other public settings in Scotland including a new National Care Service
We welcome the SNP manifesto commitment to expand Food for Life. Half of Scotland’s council areas are already signed up, and we are ready to work with the Scottish Government to increase the provision of healthy, fresh, and local food to all local authority areas and to other parts of the public sector.
4. Develop a new Organic Action Plan with a commitment to increase land farmed organically in line with the EU Farm to Fork strategy
The SNP-Green draft policy agreement commits to the development of an Organic Food and Farming Action Plan and to at least doubling the area of land farmed organically during this parliamentary term. We would urge the Scottish Government to match the ambition of the EU Farm to Fork strategy and set a longer-term target for continued growth of the sector to 2030.
5. Provide ring-fenced funding for agroforestry along with specialist advice and support for farmers, crofters, and land managers
Planting trees with crops and livestock can benefit wildlife, soil health, animal welfare and contribute to climate change mitigation. We want to see a minimum of 5% of farmed land under agroforestry systems by 2030. The Scottish Government can support that ambition by providing ring-fenced funding and supporting farmers to ensure we get the right trees in the right places.
6. Set targets to reduce the use of nitrogen fertilisers, pesticides, and antibiotics along with support to reach those goals
The overuse of pesticides and inorganic fertilisers underpins the current model of farming, which needs to change. We want to see the Scottish Government again line up with EU Farm to Fork strategy goals of reducing the use of fertilisers by 20%, pesticides by 50% and antimicrobials on farm animals by 50%.
7. Ensure future payments for food production and land management are clearly linked to the delivery of public goods
Farmers should be rewarded for doing the right thing. The new post-CAP system of farm payments should make the link between public money and public goods – with incentives for delivery in terms of healthy soils, clean air and water, carbon storage and biodiversity.
8. Invest in regional and local supply chain infrastructure for processing, marketing, and distribution to support direct sales of fresh, local food at affordable prices
If we are to help nature-friendly farms deliver fresh, local food directly to customers at affordable prices, it will require investment in infrastructure for processing, marketing, and distribution. This should be linked to the local food strategies promised in the SNP manifesto, building on models such as the Sustainable Food Places initiative.
9. Support farmer-led innovation and research – alongside a reformed Farm Advisory Service and knowledge exchange network
We believe in supporting farmers to take a lead on solving the problems that matter to them. Backing for farmer-led innovation should go hand-in-hand with an upscaled and upskilled Farm Advisory Service to ensure that expert advice is available during the transition to more climate and nature-friendly methods of farming.
10. Tackle the anti-microbial resistance crisis with a renewed commitment to high animal welfare standards
Anti-microbial resistance has a direct impact upon human and animal health. We must transition away from intensive livestock farming systems that drive routine preventative use of antibiotics to more extensive, outdoor farming that ensures a healthy ‘good life’ for all farm animals.
Learn more about our policy work in Scotland
Our policy work aims to support Scotland’s transition to nature- and climate- friendly farming and normalise healthy and sustainable diets.Read more