Interest groups and information in the development of agri-environment policy in Scotland
This thesis explores the processes by which agri-environmental policy has developed in Scotland, using the 1996 Countryside Premium Scheme consultation as a case study. The role of interest groups within the policy process and the impacts those groups have on policy outcomes through the provision of information to policy-makers are investigated. In the process of developing a new policy, policy-makers require new information. In designing agri-environmental schemes, the Scottish Office requires information on the likely environmental, farm management and farm income impacts of proposed schemes and prescriptions. Such information is increasingly sought through public consultations, which can be considered in terms of the policy-makers demanding information which is then supplied by interested parties. This policy 'market' is amenable to analysis using economic tools more generally used in conventional markets for priced goods and services, such as the Structure-Conduct-Performance framework and the analysis of transaction costs. The public consultations undertaken prior to the introduction of the Countryside Premium Scheme in 1997 was investigated as such a policy 'market'. This revealed the structure of the agri-environmental policy network within Scotland. Three-quarters of the 71 respondents to the consultation were interviewed to establish their conduct within the policy process, and the costs involved in their providing information to the Scottish Office. The impact of the information provided on the policy outcome was explored using a combination of the perceptions of the policy actors surveyed and, more objectively, a comparison of the suggestions made in the written consultation responses with the changes made prior to implementation of the Scheme. The transaction costs paid by interest groups involved in this consultation were the equivalent of around £50,000. In return for this investment, both agricultural and environmental interest groups were found to have had some limited impact on the policy outcomes, through the provision of different types of information.