The James Hutton Institute this week organised a “Squeezed Middle Debate” which focused on addressing the conflicting demands on the use of intermediate quality land in Scotland. In terms of the Macaulay Land Capability for Agriculture (LCA) classification, the Squeezed Middle can be considered as LCA Class 3.2 to LCA Class 6.1; that is all rural land excluding prime agricultural land and the poorest quality moors and hills.
The event commenced with a series of short presentations from members of the discussion panel which included Prof Bill Slee (James Hutton Institute), Jo Ellis (Woodland Expansion Advisory Group), Scott Walker (National Farmers Union Scotland), Prof Des Thompson (Scottish Natural Heritage) and Simon Thorp (Scotland’s Moorland Forum). The presentations were followed by an open discussion involving members of the audience.
Some of the key points raised included the fact that it is important to remember that it is not possible to merely say that if land falls into class X, it should be used for Y. Furthermore, the establishment of specific targets for certain land uses, such as the 25% target for forestry, often scare and annoy people; therefore they are not terribly helpful when considering the Squeezed Middle. The agricultural sector also highlighted that they are feeling under considerable pressure due to the variety of demands being placed on the Squeezed Middle in terms of delivering for the environment, for climate change, etc as well as continuing to produce food. There was a suggestion that a forum should be established to start talking about how best to manage the Squeezed Middle. Scottish Land & Estates will keep members up to date as this debate progresses.