Agriculture in Scotland
At first glance, the situation north of the border does not appear as dire as in England, but that does not mean that all is well...
Scotland’s countryside is still home to the braiding of field margins with poppies, cornflowers and chamomile, to hay meadows of buttercup, cranesbill and rare northern bedstraw and to hedgerows vibrant with hawthorn, black-thorn, dog rose and honeysuckle.
However, agricultural intensification and specialisation are in danger of simplifying this farmed landscape and making it the domain of fewer species where once there was abundant diversity.
Our wild flowers and plants support an extraordinary diversity of pollinators, birds and mammals. Flowers, including bird’s-foot trefoil (which supports 132 invertebrates, such as burnet moths and small blue butterfly) and common knapweed (which supports 67 invertebrates), are part of our productive landscapes. As well as supporting pollinators, our native flora also contributes to flood control and clean soil and water. Without wild plants, our productive lands could not be productive.
Scotland’s farmers, however, are not in a position to farm for free and the wildlife benefits we want to see need to be paid for. Agri-environment schemes are the only mechanism to do this. Worryingly, these cannot deliver the environmental priorities we, in Scotland, have set. To date, only 18% of the Rural Development programme funding is spent on agri-environment. The rest goes to rural infrastructure and Less Favoured Area Support payments. And of agri-environment scheme funding in 2011–2012, just under 15% was approved for options that could benefit plants and fungi in enclosed production lands. The actual benefit of this spend for plants and fungi has never been measured.
Things could be better. We still have it in our grasp to change the future for Scotland’s remaining ‘bonnie gems’.