Towards sustainability: case study of agricultural policy development in Scotland

Margaret Ryan, Anne Smith, Keith Halcro

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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This study thematically reviews agricultural policy papers affecting Scotland in the period 1998-2023, a period that started with the introduction of The Scotland Act (1998) and Scottish devolution, and ends with ongoing war in Ukraine. These two political events and numerous other political events have impacted Scottish farming. Politics have often been entwined with the key environmental factor, climate change to generate ideas on how to improve sustainability, a factor that is driving radical transformation in the agricultural sector. This paper builds a list of policy documents covering the stated period, before using a qualitative content analysis to identify themes on sustainability. The themes to emerge include; knowledge and skills transfer, environmental sustainability, climate mitigation, innovation, and food security.
A policy map indicates that these policy documents are both reflecting and shifting how sustainability is setting the Scottish agricultural agenda, but also politicians are invariably leading the conversation on sustainable practices through these various key themes. The paradox is that whilst policy appears coherent on paper, the reality is that implementation appears flawed. Farmers are encountering significant operational issues in trying to implement sustainable agricultural policies. Practically, this map of legislative themes will enable farmers to better understand these political expectations and consequently better identify gaps in their knowledge and skills in managing the transition towards sustainability. It is hoped this paper will help to adapt agricultural policy and improve farmers’ support for sustainability, as ultimately agricultural policy needs the buy in of its definitive stakeholder, the Scottish farmer.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - May 2023
Event20th Rural Entrepreneurship Conference: Challenges and opportunities for rural entrepreneurship in times of crisis - Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 17 May 202319 May 2023 (Link to conference website)


Conference20th Rural Entrepreneurship Conference
Abbreviated titleREC 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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