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Scottish Environment LINK - The voice of Scotland's environment movement

Scope and purpose


This is the third set of reports commissioned by Scottish Environment LINK on the state of the Scottish environment. The first report, commissioned in April 1991, with support from the then Scottish Office Environment Department (SOEnD), aimed to provide a “broad brush assessment of selected environmental resources in Scotland (Dargie and Briggs, 1991). That report was written against the background of the publication in 1990 of the UK government’s environmental strategy statement “This Common Inheritance” (Dept. of the Environment, 1990), and provided a resource-based (e.g. air, soils, agriculture, forestry, natural and semi-natural terrestrial habitats etc.) assessment. The “State of the Scottish Environment 1991” report was possibly the first attempt to synthesise such a wide range of information from a multitude of sources. Despite the authors’ recognizing “the limitations of a brief requiring a concise report on a very large subject area, within a short time frame and a small budget” there is little doubt that the report was influential not only in terms of the information it contained but also in demonstrating the highly sectoral and incomplete nature of the data that we gather and hold on the environment of Scotland (Bayfield, et al. 2005; Birnie et al., 2002; 2005).

During the 1990s environmental management in Scotland experienced major changes ( Warren , 2002), partly through institutional (e.g. creation of SNH) and political reforms (e.g. devolution). In the late 1990s, LINK published a series of publications entitled “Scottish Environmental Audits”. Funded through a consortium which included the Esmee Fairbairn Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage, Forward Scotland and members of LINK (WWF Scotland, RSPB, SWT), this series was intended to provide “an authoritative, independent assessment and critique of the state of the Scottish environment in the late 1990s”, updating and expanding the analysis provided in The State of the Scottish Environment 1991 (Dargie and Briggs, 1991), and aimed at informing debate and action. For this series of audit reports, LINK adopted a different approach by commissioning acknowledged experts in the field to write them. Whilst the original SoE report had systematically covered 10 different resource topics, the audit series was less comprehensive. It focused on specific topics of concern such as the marine environment (Gubbay, 1997), agriculture and the environment (Egdall, 1999), and planning and sustainable development (Raemakers and Boyack, 1999). It can be argued that by adopting this topic-based approach, the audit series failed to make the same impact as the original SoE report.

Despite significant efforts on State of the Environment reporting in Scotland especially by SNH e.g. Natural Heritage Trends Scotland, 2001 (Mackey et al. 2001) and SEPA e.g. State of the Environment: Soil Quality Report (SEPA, 2001), there is still no comprehensive SoE report for Scotland of the type envisaged by Dargie and Briggs in 1991, and as developed elsewhere (e.g. by the EEA and Environment Canada). There is possibly a lack of institutional capacity in Scotland to provide such a “joined-up” assessment at the present time.

This report is developed against this background and can be seen as the third in the set of reports sponsored by LINK on environmental auditing in Scotland . It focuses on the farmed environment of Scotland and builds upon Agriculture chapter (4) of The State of the Scottish Environment 1991 and the Scottish Environmental Audit on agriculture and the environment (Egdall, 1999). It should be noted that this report does not have the same conceptual structure as a State of the Environment Report (e.g. systematic treatment of driving forces, pressures, states and responses). It has been conceived as first step resource (i.e. summarizes key points and points to further information), primarily as a Web rather than a printed publication. It has been written as a series of briefing notes on contemporary issues affecting the farmed environment in Scotland . Whilst these are primarily intended to inform debate on the future shape of the Scottish Rural Development Plan, the authors recognize that the material could also contribute to a more comprehensive overall assessment of the state of the Scottish environment.

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