Member State Activity – Scotland
Scottish Government publish High Nature Value Farming and Forestry Indicators
Scotland is the first country in the United Kingdom to assess the extent and broad distribution of High Nature Value Farming and Forestry (HNVFF) systems. A recently published Scottish Government report provides a baseline assessment of High Nature Value Farming and Forestry against which progress of the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) can be monitored. The report highlights that in 2009, 40% of Scotland’s utilised Agricultural Area was estimated to be under High Nature Value farming systems, while 41% of the woodland area of Scotland was under High Nature Value forestry systems.
Davy McCracken of SAC’s Rural Policy Centre advised on how best to asses the extent and broad distribution of High Nature Value farming systems across Scotland. The approach taken focussed on characterising the livestock grazing systems occurring in Scotland’s islands, hills and uplands. High Nature Value farming systems in Scotland are particularly associated with livestock grazing systems where a high proportion of the on-farm forage and fodder resource comes from semi-natural habitats such as species-rich machair grassland, moorland and heathland.
Data drawn from annually collected agricultural statistics was used to estimate the number and extent of farm holdings with HNV farming system characteristics. The proportion of rough grazing on the farm holding was used as a surrogate for the amount of semi-natural habitat which may form the available forage and fodder resource. This was combined with a broad calculation of livestock densities at the holding level as a surrogate for the intensity at which those forage resources were utilised across each farm holding.
This approach allowed Scottish Government statisticians to estimate that 44% of Scotland’s agricultural land was under High Nature Value farming systems in 2007, 43% in 2008 and 40% in 2009. The decline between 2007 and 2009 is likely to be associated with the retreat of farming from Scotland’s hills which has been highlighted in previous Scottish Agricultural College and Scottish Natural Heritage reports. The HNVFF report also highlights that crofting and common grazings are an important element of Scotland’s High Nature Value farming system resource. For example, although common grazings only cover about 9% of Scotland’s agricultural land, over 20% of the agricultural land under High Nature Value farming systems was on common grazings.
Given their overall High Nature Value farming system importance, the HNVFF report also highlights there is a need to know much more about common grazings and how aspects of their management and underlying nature conservation value may be changing. In this respect, a recent assessment of some of the underlying issues conducted by the European Forum on Nature Conservation & Pastoralism has provided a list of detailed recommendations as to what could be done to obtain more information on Scotland’s common grazings.
Davy is currently working with Scottish Government and Forestry Commission Scotland colleagues to consider the impact that current SRDP measures have on HNV farming and forestry systems in Scotland.
The Scottish Government’s HNVFF Technical Working Group was established to explore the development of High Nature Value Farming and Forestry indicators as required by the European Commission for the monitoring of the 2007-2013 Scotland Rural Development Programme. It was a small group comprising Scottish Government analysts, scientists and policy advisor together with representation from Forestry Commission Scotland, RSPB Scotland, SAC and Scottish Natural Heritage. The report of the Group is available from the Scottish Government website, together with separate supporting documents provided by SAC, Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage.
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