#NourishElectionAsks – Ask 5: Increase Provision of Land for Food Production

With the local elections right around the corner, Nourish is asking candidates to support our ideas for how Local Authorities can catalyse some vital changes in our food system. Full details of the #NourishElectionAsks and how to sign up as a supporter are available here.

From now, until the elections, we’ll be posting blogs about each of our asks.

Nourish is currently campaigning at a national level for a new legal framework for the food system in Scotland. However, alongside a better framework underpinning our food system, we need local action to bring about a real transformation of how we do food. Local Authorities across Scotland can work to ensure that everybody in their constituency has access to enough nutritious food, can support sustainable rural development by bringing conservation and food production together, can encourage a dynamic food culture with community food growing and shared meals, and can protect the environment so that it is alive with wildlife for future generations.

Making available and safeguarding land for sustainable food production is crucial to this – both in rural, peri-urban and urban areas.

That’s why Nourish Scotland’s fifth policy ask is:


Increase Provision of Land for Food Production

We want to see areas of land safeguarded for food production in and around our cities and towns – with particular protection for fertile, Grade I agricultural land such as parts of the Edinburgh Green Belt. As provisioned for by Part 9 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, Local Authorities should co-produce ambitious Food Growing Strategies with local communities, as part of wider Food Strategies, to ensure that everyone who wants to produce food can access land to do so – whether it is allotments, community growing spaces or farmland. We want to see Local Authorities re-investing in land to provide long-term, secure tenancies to local food producers and community-led food production. Some of our local authorities’ common good land, which by law exists for the benefits of the residents of the former burghs, should be considered for agroecological food production. As a first step, we call on Local Authorities to implement the statutory duty placed on them by the Community Empowerment Act to establish and maintain a register of all common good property, and consult community bodies before disposing of or changing the use of common good assets.


Case study: Cambridgeshire’s Farm Estate

Lack of access to land to buy or rent securely is a big barrier for aspiring food producers in Scotland. The Smallholdings Act of 1892 enabled UK County Councils to create and let smallholdings as an entry route into agriculture. Fifty County Councils in England and Wales still maintain “County Farms”, with in total 3,100 tenants on 111,000ha of local authority land, but this provision is shrinking, as budget cuts are forcing councils to sell off land. In Scotland, most County Farms were sold off years ago, leaving new entrants with either the private sector or crofting. In England, Cambridgeshire County Council has the largest “Farms Estate” in the UK, comprising 13,400ha and letting to 197 farm tenants. The Farms Estate provides significant financial returns for the Council, generating £4.1 million in rent each year. The money raised is used to pay for council services and to keep council tax low. Since 2000, the Estate has given 88 new entrants their first step on the farming ladder. As well as providing financial benefits the Council has used the Estate to open public access to the countryside by developing food paths and to protect biodiversity and cultural heritage.


Nourish campaigns & projects

Nourish is currently campaigning at a national level for a new legal framework for the food system in Scotland taking a right-based approach to food, which includes access to land. You can find more information about Nourish’s work on this here and can sign up to receive updates about the campaign including how to get involved here.

Nourish is also doing some work with the Scottish Farm Land Trust, who are a new organisation aiming to support new entrants and ecological agriculture in Scotland. We’ve just brought out a survey for farmers or aspiring farmers looking for land in Scotland, to ask them about their needs. Survey should only take 15 minutes, please spread the word: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/scottishfarmland