Holyrood’s vision for agriculture and rural communities is clear for all to see in the Scottish Government’s Agricultural and Rural Communities Bill.

That bill ended stage 2 of its parliamentary passage in Holy- rood in May and is currently at stage 3, which involves final changes and a vote.

Rural affairs, land reform and islands secretary, Mairi Gougeon, said that the bill aims to create a framework “that will allow us to support farmers to farm in a sustainable and regenerative way”.

“It will help us to deliver on key outcomes such as high-quality food production, climate mitigation and adaptation, nature restoration, and wider rural development,” she said.

“This approach will ensure flexibility and adaptivity to mitigate against future challenges in an increasingly uncertain world. It will enable tailored provisions and support to be implemented through secondary legislation and further adapted on a regular basis as the sector requires.”

But in a letter to Gougeon members of the umbrella group Scottish Environment Link state that while the bill presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make farming work for nature, climate and people, the Scottish Government must now demonstrate in detail how the proposed changes will enable Scottish farming to contribute meaningfully to Scotland reach- ing net zero.

“A marked increase in the pace and scope of change is required,” they write.

“We urge you to ensure that the new farm support system established by the bill enables all farmers and crofters to produce food in ways that reduce emissions, restore nature, promote the highest standards of animal welfare and revitalise our rural areas for the benefit of everyone.”

And after several of its suggested amendments to the bill were accepted, rural business organisation Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) said that these amendments will be beneficial in achieving food production, carbon sequestration and bio diversity enhancement side- by-side from Scotland’s land, though room for improvement still exists ahead of the bill’s final stage.

“Throughout the bill’s passage at Holyrood, we have consulted widely with traditional farming businesses as well as other food producers and land managers to ensure the new legislation will deliver what is greatly needed for the sector,” said Eleanor Kay, senior policy adviser – agricul- ture and climate change at SLE.

“We’ve been pleased with changes that will aid the production of sustainable food, sequestration of carbon, improve biodiversity, securing a sustainable supply of timber and fuel, and delivering wider ecosystem improvements to the benefit of all in Scotland.”

Kay said that this has to be a bill that delivers in equal measure across land management and that the importance of venison and deer farming to Scotland’s rural economy has been underlined by its inclusion in the list of activities which can be supported.

“There has also been an amendment to add water hold- ing capacity of land to matters that can be financially support- ed in the natural environment and this will encourage farmers and estates to adopt new prac- tices to aid water management and flood prevention,” she said.

“We have pushed on behalf of farmers for compensation to be provided where loss occurs through the reintroduction of species including beavers and sea eagles.

“Only by working with farmers and land managers in the long-term, and acknowledging conflicts where they occur, will we ensure a united approach to enhancing nature and the environment alongside food production.”

Jonnie Hall, director of policy at National Farmers Union of Scotland, noted that the bill details that Scottish ministers must prepare and publish a code of practice on sustainable and regenerative agriculture.

“If Scottish agriculture is to deliver on food, climate and bio- diversity, as well as underpinning rural communities, it must embrace innovation, science and technology rather than revert back to traditional practices,” he said.

“Nor must Scottish agricultural production be unduly compromised in the pursuit of regenerative aspirations, otherwise we run the risk of simply offshoring emissions and biodiversity loss to other countries.”

Hall said that regenerative agriculture in Scotland must be sustainable in Scotland.

“As a result, a wide interpretation of regenerative agriculture is required within the code. A flexible, farmer-centred approach that is underpinned by the farmer’s knowledge of their land and their system/enter- prises is required.

“The code should then become a toolkit of management actions that work with eco-system functions and reduced inputs but without compromising output. In a nutshell, that’s called efficiency.

“All farms and crofts will fall somewhere on the continuum between regenerative and conventional agriculture.

“The code should set out guidance to enable an integrated approach to farm management that focuses on restoring and enhancing the environment to underpin agricultural pro- duction through regenerative practices.”

Visitors to this year’s Royal Highland Show will no doubt have ample opportunity to determine for themselves whether or not they share Holyrood’s vision for agriculture and rural communities while surrounded by some of the award-winning beasts and produce raised here. Hopefully the sun will shine as they sample the best of Scotland’s food and drink.