Perceived legitimacy of agricultural support and priorities for a future support scheme in Scotland

K Glenk*, SG Thomson, Jay Burns, Ulf Liebe, Jacqueline M Potts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/Report/Policy Brief/Technical BriefResearch report

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Agricultural support in Scotland represents a significant contribution of the taxpayer. Following Brexit, it is expedient to re-establish the legitimacy for agricultural income support in Scotland. Towards this end, this survey-based study provides empirical evidence on views of members of the Scottish public for key guiding principles and characteristics that should shape a farmer’s support payments. We take a novel perspective by focusing on the acceptability of support for individual farmers. This perspective is enabled through a multi-factorial survey experiment (MFE), which varies 12 attributes across 6 short vignettes presented to respondents. Each vignette describes a farmer and their farm. The attributes include characteristics of farmers (e.g., gender, experience) and of farms (e.g. size, production type/level, environmental performance, financial performance). Attributes varied following an experimental design. Each vignette describes potential changes to the farms’ payments. For each vignette, respondents were asked to indicate on 11-point scales (i) general acceptability of payments; (ii) perceived fairness of income support; (iii) willingness to be supplied with produce by the farmer; and (iv) willingness to petition for continued financial support for the farmer with local politicians. In addition to the MFE, the survey included a Best-Worst-Scaling (BWS) exercise to derive preference rankings for important guiding principles (“items”) for the design of an agricultural support scheme. The inclusion of 16 items included a mix of existing and potentially novel dimensions of agricultural support. Each respondent faced 8 BWS tasks that varied items according to a modified balanced incomplete block design (BIBD). The survey was administered online to at least 500 respondents in each of 4 treatments representing the four main farm types (dairy, beef, sheep, cropping). The results show that responses differ substantially by context of the response scale. For example, farmer characteristics were more important for fairness perceptions than for willingness to be supplied with produce, where production-related attributes were most salient. Both total GHG emissions and emission intensity are found to matter for acceptability of agricultural support. Reassuringly, food production and safety rank highest in an initial ranking of BWS items, with low ranks for support to farming in remote area and new entrants. Findings of the study may (i) inform priorities for post-CAP support policy design; (ii) identify areas of consensus or disagreement; and thus (iii) facilitate effective communication on post-CAP support.
Original languageEnglish
Commissioning bodyScottish Government
Number of pages34
Publication statusPrint publication - 24 Mar 2022


  • Agricultural policy
  • fairness beliefs
  • best-worst-scaling
  • multi-factorial survey experiment;


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