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Agriculture / Rural college bags £100k grant to gather island views on policy changes

A GRANT worth £100,000 has been awarded to Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) to carry out research and gather the views of island communities in Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides on the forthcoming agricultural and land use policy changes.

Led by professor in agricultural economics and policy at SRUC Steven Thomson, the project will consider the risks and opportunities for the island communities arising from the proposed agricultural policy changes, as support becomes “increasingly conditional” based on climate and biodiversity outcomes.

It coincides with the current passing of the agriculture and rural communities bill through the Scottish Parliament and the re-emphasis on global commitments to tackling climate change and biodiversity decline at the recent COP28.

The SRUC said the project will provide a “stock take” of agriculture on the islands, including long-term trends, as well as considering the additional costs associated with agricultural activity in these areas.

It will also consider the relative importance of agriculture, underpinned by agricultural support payments, to the islands’ economies and communities.

Funded by the Scottish Government’s Community Led Local Development Fund, the project will be delivered by the Orkney local action group.

Working with Andrew Moxey of Pareto Consulting, and SAC Consulting offices in Lerwick, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Balivanich, the project – which runs until early April – will gather insight from farmers and crofters, stakeholders, supply chains and communities through a combination of in-person and online events, as well as the submission of written views.

This will be used to inform recommendations which are fed back to Scottish Government policy makers.

Professor Thomson said: “This is a very exciting opportunity for us to take a close look at the agricultural situation in these island communities, identifying concerns and opportunities.

“Speaking also as a Just Transition commissioner, this project is important as it will allow us to consider, in full, what proposed changes in agricultural policy might mean to agriculture and the wider rural economies on these islands.

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“We know that some island economies are very heavily reliant on agriculture which, when coupled with ageing populations, poses risks to local economies and even to public services.

“While this work has a challenging delivery timeframe it can provide a useful template for an islands communities impact assessment from agricultural policy changes that can be replicated elsewhere, such as in the Inner Hebrides and Clyde islands.”

Anyone interested in being involved in the project should contact their local SAC Consulting office.

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