Scotland’s newly elected and returning MSPs will be sworn in at Holyrood today. The ceremony marks the official start of a new five-year term and follows an election campaign like no other.
--- updated 20 May 2021 ---
The fact that voters turned out in record numbers, despite ongoing Covid restrictions, is a very positive sign for democracy in this country. And as members of the 2021 intake settle into their new roles, there are no shortage of issues to be addressed.
Is Scotland ready to make bold policy decisions?
While the immediate challenge of the pandemic will rightly be the primary focus of the new administration, there is a debate to be had about what comes next.
As we recover from Covid, are we heading straight back to the way things were done before, or are we ready to make some bold policy decisions in the years ahead? Our food and farming system can help to resolve the climate, nature and health crises we currently face - but only if we move quickly.
The Soil Association is supporting farmers across Scotland to move towards agroecology – more sustainable farming that works with nature - protecting our soils, providing healthier and more sustainable food and helping to tackle climate change.
We set out our plans to ‘Grow Back Better’, with key recommendations to:
- transform livestock farming
- slash pesticide and fertiliser use
- encourage farmer-led innovation and research
- renew our focus on soils for net-zero and climate resilience.
Will the SNP deliver on manifesto pledges?
It was very encouraging to read the SNP election manifesto pledge to double the amount of land used for organic farming – and the amount of organic produce that comes from Scotland, with a focus on more of it being used in public sector food procurement.
A Good Food Nation bill enshrining the right to food in law was also promised, along with a pledge to expand the Soil Association’s award-winning Food for Life programme into a new National Care Service, the NHS, prisons, and further and higher education institutions.
We welcomed the Scottish Greens’ manifesto commitments directly referencing agroecology, agroforestry and soil conservation as public benefits that farmers could deliver through the replacement of current grants with Land Management Contracts.
The Greens also backed public procurement contracts to support local sustainable food producers, building on the Food for Life model. These pledges provide a solid platform to build on as we begin to enter the Covid recovery phase and look forward to the showpiece COP26 in Glasgow later this year.
Soil Association Scotland welcomes MSPs from all parties to Holyrood – both the new intake and the more familiar faces returning.
We look forward to working with the new Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, Mairi Gougeon MSP, the new Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Land Reform Mairi McAllan MSP, as well as the spokespeople for the opposition parties, on the pressing issues we face around food, farming, land use and the environment.
Find out more about our work in Scotland.