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Environment and Climate Change (European Union Referendum)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 27th October 2016.

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Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

I begin by declaring an interest as a hill farmer and food producer.

I, too, welcome this debate on the future of our Scottish environment post Brexit. None of you will be surprised to know that I have been allocated the slot in the debate dealing with land use, excluding forestry, which has already been elegantly discussed by my colleague Alexander Burnett.

Notwithstanding the fact that I voted for us to remain in the EU, Brexit offers the UK and Scotland a chance to re-examine our land use strategy and the environmental goals that we all want to achieve. Although developing a spatial land use strategy was considered during Richard Lochhead’s term in office and a land use strategy was lodged in the Parliament on 22 March, the day before dissolution, we still have a sectoral, piecemeal approach, with constant and abiding tensions still in place between food producers, environmentalists and wind farm and tourism interests, with our Government not always certain about its own ambitions for our rural areas.

We know that the Government is already failing in several areas, such as delivering better air quality, and that it does not comply with annex 15 of its own CAFS—“Cleaner Air for Scotland”—report. We also know that, although rural land use emissions and sequestration targets are difficult to measure, they are probably not being met as fully as they might be. We know that targets on native woodland planting and restoration need further work, and that deer management systems are not yet effective, try as we might to make them so. We also know that Scotland’s carbon footprint is increasing instead of decreasing.