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Common grazings in Scotland – assessing their value and rewarding their management

Gwyn Jones

European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism (EFNCP), United Kingdom

Common grazings make up c.13% of actively farmed land in Scotland, are used by 22% of all Single Farm Payment claimants and account for around 20% of Scotland’s semi-natural, High Nature Value, farmland. Though only 7% of Scotland’s land area, they account for around 27% of the land surface under a nature conservation designation, 10% of the soil carbon, 15% of peat soils and 30% of peat deposits >2m deep.

Though it has been a statutory requirement to do so for crofters’ common grazings (probably 95% of the total area), there is no full register and support given on or to common grazings cannot be separately identified. Support delivery to common grazings comes mainly through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and is delivered by two routes: through the individual shareholder and through the grazings committee. First pillar and disadvantaged area (LFA) support go to the individual on a historic or quasi-historic basis.

Agri-environment, afforestation and woodland management support is delivered through the grazings committee. However at least 1 in 5 grazings have no current institutions and in possibly another 20% they are moribund or have very limited capacity. In grazings where there is an active committee, support delivery is made difficult by the need to agree both on participation and on the disbursement of funds.

The programming logic set out for EU Rural Development Plans implies a description of the initial situation, a needs assessment, choosing and costing measures and delivery mechanisms having regard to the social, economic and environmental realities and monitoring and evaluating by the establishment of baseline and impact indicators. None of these are in place for common grazings in Scotland.

Through the example of Scotland it is possible to challenge the conventional notions of property, especially in regard to the delivery of public policies, and the ability of traditional institutions to deliver twenty-first century objectives. The paper concludes that should a more integrated policy approach be adopted than either a more flexible approach to property is necessary or the governance institutions will need to change.

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European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism
Online: http://www.efncp.org/what-we-do/common-land/plovdiv-conference/scotland/
Date: 2019/05/26
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