August 17, 2021
Manifesto for change
As with so many aspects of our lives, global ‘just in time’ supply chains have come to dominate our food systems. The increasing number of half empty shelves in supermarkets may be a reflection of the system’s inherent vulnerability to shocks such as Brexit, but our collective disconnect from the food system presents a much greater challenge – both to the planet and our health. A fast growing Scottish movement of small scale farmers and community based food growers – The Landworkers’ Alliance In Scotland – presents an alternative vision for our food system.
The production of food, fibre and fuel in Scotland finds itself at a crossroads. Faced with climate and biodiversity crises and food and health inequalities, now is the time to choose a sustainable approach which supports agroecological practices and genuinely local production.
The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the need for and many benefits of genuinely local production, which is more resilient to supply chain disruptions. However, the United Kingdom only grows approximately 60% of the food that it eats, and dependence on imports is even higher for vegetables and fruit (47.5% and 84% respectively imported). Less than 10% of land in Scotland has been classified as suitable for growing crops, but whilst large amounts of nutritious food could be grown in small spaces, we use ¾ of our land to grow cereals with ½ of cereals going to livestock feed and to the production of beer and whisky. Agroforestry and organic production have great potential in the Scottish context, notably in combination with livestock, but uptake is still limited and only 2.1% of agricultural production in Scotland is organic.
Scottish law and policy has not been doing enough to promote agroecological production, nor support the great diversity of people who want to produce good food, fibre and fuel in Scotland. Rural land accounts for 98% of Scotland’s land area – 50% of which is owned by only 432 families (0.008% of the population), and the inability to access land has been identified as the primary barrier to entry for new entrant farmers. At the same time, we are losing land at 1200 hectares a year, and our workforce is in decline.A lack of opportunities for training and skills development in agroecology constrain opportunities for the upscaling of genuinely local production efforts.
Scotland’s current land use patterns are having negative impacts on the environment and communities that rely on the land. The agricultural sector contributes to 26% of Scottish greenhouse gas emissions, including 68% of methane and 79% nitrous oxide emissions, and emissions from land use saw only minimal annual reductions over the last decade. Intensification of agriculture and the loss of traditional and sustainable practices have been held responsible for loss of biodiversity and habitats, and impacts on soil and water quality.
We can no longer continue in this way. But it also does not need to be this way. The production of food, fibre and fuel can make positive contributions to climate change mitigation and biodiversity enhancement. The next term of Scottish Parliament 2021-2026 brings opportunities to rethink how law and policy can effectively support agroecological practices, reward the producers of good and genuinely local food, fuel and fibre and allow everyone in Scotland to enjoy the products of the land.
Read the whole manifesto here