We are working with the Scottish Government’s Agriculture and Rural Economy Directorate to engage a cross-section of the Scottish public on their attitudes, values and priorities on farming, agricultural environments and support for rural communities.
This will help to inform Scottish Government policy making around any future government funding for the sector to replace the EU Common Agricultural Policy payments after Brexit.
How will deliberative methods contribute to the project?
The overall project seeks to;
- Understand public priorities, values, and attitudes on food consumption, diets, environment and the protection of Scottish land and natural assets;
- Explore knowledge and awareness of the Common Agricultural Policy and public priorities for future agricultural subsidies to ensure a safe, affordable and quality supply of food;
- Engage public in discussions around their priorities for rural development and environmental protection, and the extent to which this should feature, and be weighted, within future agricultural policy.
Building on the first 3 stages of this project - a literature and evidence review, in-depth qualitative interviews and a representative national survey of over 2300 people (primarily delivered by our partners at Mark Diffley Research and Consultancy) , Involve led on two, weekend-long deliberative Citizens’ Forums.
The two Citizens Forums, one held in a predominately rural area and the other a predominantly urban, involved a diverse group of participants recruited to be a ‘mini-public’ ie a broadly representative sample of the population as a whole. In total 48 people were involved.
These Citizens’ Forums were designed to build upon, question and test some of the results of the previous research stages, in order to give the Scottish Government a better understanding of the reasons behind ‘public opinions’. They were also explicitly intended to explore if, how and why ‘public opinions’ changed as a result of being exposed to further information on the topic, and the opinions of others.
Over each weekend the participants were taken through a dedicated learning phase, to establish their own understanding of a range of quite complicated and technical issues, a discussion phase focused on developing dialogue (ie understanding the views of others in the room), and a deliberation phase that involved reaching conclusions, prioritising options, and establishing collective recommendations.
Background to the project
Scottish Government’s Agriculture and Rural Economy Directorate promotes sustainable economic growth in agriculture, the food industry, and in rural areas in Scotland. It is responsible for Scottish agricultural policy, the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), developing rural communities, animal welfare, the environment and other related matters.
In 2017, the Scottish Government appointed four Agriculture Champions to help advise the delivery of its ‘Vision for Agriculture’ strategy. In 2018, they published the report “A Future Strategy for Scottish Agriculture” which recommended the Scottish Government start a conversation to find out what the public values in Scottish farming. It established that public engagement is essential if the importance attributed to “public value” in the Future Strategy for Scottish Agriculture report, is to be taken seriously.
“The public must be better informed about Scottish farming and what it delivers, and policies must be guided by real evidence about what the public values. A civic conversation, both informing and listening to the public, must start now.”
Additionally, a key impetus for stimulating public engagement is related to the challenge presented by Brexit and the subsequent end of CAP payments, as well as the opportunity it gives for a renewal of agricultural policy in Scotland.
Involve and Mark Diffley Consulting and Research were chosen to run this project by the Scottish Government in late 2018.
(Image by Gabriela Palai on Pexels)
This project will help to ensure the public and decision-makers are better connected.