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Scotland’s Biennial Land Use and the Environment Conference XII

Conference Background

There is still a lot of water to flow under the bridge before the scale and shape of future public funding to land managers becomes clearer. But with Brexit rapidly approaching – and with each new model of theoretical scenarios suggesting that major changes to current support levels are inevitable – then one major topic of debate revolves around the suggestion that future support for land management should only be targeted at the provision of public goods.

However, it is important to remember that most – if not all - of the questions being asked about how best to use public funding to obtain public goods have been around for a long time. What Brexit has done is to bring those questions more to the forefront of a much greater number of people’s minds. In particular, it is now being recognised that any funding that goes to land managers in the future is going to have to be argued for - and justified - against other calls on public funding such as health and education.

In order to make such arguments it will be important that the public goods being delivered can be assessed in a cost-effective and transparent way. That then begs a number of questions:

  • What type of environmental public goods should be rewarded in the future? Many public goods can be listed as potentially arising from any one management unit but not all can be assigned down to an individual management unit - as opposed to wider catchment – level;
  •  What impact will the targeting of those public goods have on future land use? Prioritising public good delivery will only be effective if land managers are willing to deliver those goods. Ensuring this requires greater knowledge about what motivates land managers to change management practices, e.g. why do they implement certain measures and not others?
  • What range of mechanism are available for rewarding land managers for the provision of public goods?  Paying for most public goods will require decisions to be made about how robust an assessment mechanism is acceptable. Most will involve some level of estimate of the degree of delivery at the management unit level, raising the question as to what level of variation in those estimates are acceptable to base payments upon?

Although Brexit is a huge challenge it is also a huge opportunity to develop something different with regard to the effective delivery of environmental public goods in the future. This conference will seek to help inform and shape the debate about how best to reward farmers, foresters and other land managers for delivering public goods from their land management practices. In particular it will provide a forum to help develop thinking of practical implementation on the ground and what that means for policy development.

Download the Conference Programme

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