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Land Use and Agriculture

Opinion article: People who work on the land need support and encouragement to lead net zero changes

Deborah Long
Published on
13 Sep 2023

Deborah Long writes in The Daily Record

Scotland is full of treasures in our landscapes and wildlife and in large part, it defines who we are. But it is being increasingly challenged by storms, flooding, droughts and wildfires. We don’t want to lose our wildlife or live in diminished landscapes. But that means we need to adapt and change what we do.

Nowhere is this more important than in the way we manage our land and sea in Scotland. The changes we going to have to look at will bring different jobs and altered lifestyles, but ones that build and sustain a way of life that protects and nourishes our environment, making us and our environment too, more resilient to the changes we know are coming. Change is always hard, but when change is necessary, what we do must be fair, have justice at the heart of everything we do and delivered at scale.

The scale of the changes needed, both spatially and at speed, is massive. We all need to pull together and work together. This is hard: today misinformation and false division is being sown. But this issue and its solutions are too big for us to allow that to happen. That means honest and effective conversations  about the scale of change are vital.

Adapting the way we manage our land is fundamental in reaching net zero and restoring nature. How we manage land both creates carbon emissions and nature loss but also, in different places, tucks away carbon and delivers nature restoration. We need action that reduces carbon emissions, stores carbon and restores nature.

We already have inspiring examples of approaches that work. The Nature Friendly Farming Network is showing how farming can deliver food production, healthy soils and thriving nature all at the same time. Sustainable deer management can deliver benefits across the board for many habitats and rural communities. Finding the Common Ground on Deer project is showing how effective communication paves the way for action that delivers for communities, nature and climate.

We are looking at a future where the venison market brings jobs and investment to rural Scotland. A future where peatland restoration, native woodland forestry, farms at the heart of local food networks, cooperative machinery rings and partnerships restore and maintain nature networks and sustainable visitor infrastructure. A future where the availability of energy efficient housing means housing is no longer a key barrier for those living in rural Scotland.

People who work on the land and whose way of life is coming under scrutiny are crucial to these conversations and developments so they can plan ahead and make choices. Young farmers and gamekeepers, for example, need encouragement to make changes and the knowledge that they will be supported and not derided.

We all need to understand and be inspired by the vision of a just transition to an environmentally rich and resilient future. We need to know what’s in it for people today – especially those who will be hardest hit by both the climate and biodiversity crises who have limited options to pay, move or change. And what’s in it for future generations – what are they inheriting?

The full article featured in the print version of the Daily Record on Wednesday 13th September 2023