New food production approach would benefit wildlife & people

The system is broken and needs to be repaired, writes Amy Corrigan

Picture: Contributed
Picture: Contributed

Scotland needs a just transition to a better food system. This is the plea from the Scottish Food Coalition which is challenging current thinking on a range of issues that on the face of it bear no relation to each other. On closer examination though, all are features of our broken food system.

The soaring use of food banks in Scotland, the rising health care bill attributed to diet-related disease and the poor rights afforded to many workers in the food sector may seem a million miles from RSPB Scotland’s overriding concern about the rapid and unprecedented loss of wildlife from our countryside.

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But the reality is these issues are inter-related and must be seen as part of the same problem before we can even hope to satisfactorily address any one of them. A single lens approach to any of the issues arising from our current food system at worst exacerbates, and at best ignores related problems.

The Scottish Food Coalition has emerged as a response to this challenge. RSPB Scotland is part of this growing civil society movement looking for an alternative to current approaches that tend to address the end problems of a broken system.

With the recent publication of the Scottish Food Coalition’s report ‘Plenty: Food Farming and Health in a New Scotland’, we are seeking a joined up, ambitious attempt to transform and reclaim our food system as a whole – a change in mindset.

This document speaks with exciting clarity about how things could be if we ‘did’ food differently in Scotland, and will make any reader stop and question why we accept the social and environmental consequences of how we currently feed ourselves.

In terms of the environment, our global food system currently has an environmental footprint greater than can be sustained long term without significant detriment to human well-being. Ensuring we can produce the food we depend on, both now and into the future, means taking greater care of the natural environment – our soil, air, water biodiversity – on which food production depends. Change is in all of our interests.

Delivering the vision set out in ‘Plenty’ will not be easy and will not happen over night but Scotland has little to lose and much to gain by embracing the challenge. RSPB Scotland will continue our long history of work on agriculture. Our advisors will continue to work closely with farmers across Scotland to help secure them funding and better recognition for work they are already doing to protect nature on their land.

Our scientists will continue to carry out highly regarded, and solutions focused, ecological research into wildlife declines. Our reserve wardens will continue to use farming methods to create the perfect habitat for a whole host of species, from birds to bugs but all equally important to us.

Our policy team will continue to call for better financial support for nature friendly farming and evidence based policies that conserve nature. We will continue to do all of this. But being part of the Scottish Food Coalition means we increasingly see and understand the whole picture of our food system. By working with others we can, hopefully, secure a future richer in wildlife whilst improving our food and farming systems for all involved.

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For more information on the Scottish Food Coalition and to download ‘Plenty: Food, Farming and Health in a New Scotland’ please visit:

• Amy Corrigan, Agriculture and Rural Development Policy Officer, RSPB Scotland