News that the Scottish Government’s “biodiversity strategy” has been kicked further down the road should neither surprise nor disappoint. Given it is in the hands of Lorna Slater, best known as Minister for No Deposit Return Scheme, who knows what will come out the other end?

For example, it had escaped my notice that the fine detail of the Bute House Agreement between the SNP and Greens includes a commitment to the “translocation of beavers” for which “financial and practical support will be provided”. Let us hope those to whom beavers are to be translocated will be consulted.

The potential growth of the beaver population may not be the subject on Scotland’s lips, but it is symptomatic of a wider malaise. In place of consensus around reasonable objectives, to which just about everyone would subscribe, policies emerge which undermine the outcomes they are supposed to advance.

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Obvious examples are the Deposit Return Scheme itself and the worries over Highly Protected Marine Areas. In each case, there was broad acceptance of the principles but almost none for the proposed practice. The “biodiversity strategy” seems like a natural haven for more divisive, counter-productive exercises, which takes me back to beavers.

The Scottish NFU says it accepted the “natural expansion” of the beaver population “but translocation now significantly increases the likelihood of farmers suffering severe agricultural damage at the hands of rapid species expansion” while compensation funds are “woefully inadequate”.

Is it not just possible that people who work the land and live with nature might be right about the sustainability of their own environments and worth listening to, rather than on the receiving end of a political agreement nobody actually voted for?

As Martin Kennedy, president of the Scottish NFU, pleaded: “We accept that we can do even more but Scottish Government, and the role played by the Green Party in particular, must recognise the positive measures already undertaken in the best interests of the environment, based on sound science and generations of experience in sustainably managing the land”.

Agriculture’s first duty is to feed the population and the starting point should be to balance that obligation with environmental responsibility – not to set the two in conflict. Where does self-sufficiency fit into the “biodiversity strategy”?

Using land to feed our people is surely more environmentally sound than relying on imports?

Yet, doubtless with Green assistance, the Scottish Government has created another fine old mess through a holier-than-thou attitude towards gene edited food on which world-leading work by the James Hutton Institute maintains Scotland’s long-established reputation for agricultural research. But the prophets in their own land …?

Personally, I thought opposition to GM food in a starving world was irrational but gene editing is significantly different, as it does not cross species. The UK Government legislated last year to approve it but the Scottish Government declined to join in, preferring to stick with the EU which had not recognised that distinction.

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Of course, this also set up a useful “row” about whether wicked Westminster could “force products on Scotland”, as the Minister, Mairi McAllan, charmingly put it. At which dire prospect the nation would presumably rise up in indignation. Inconveniently, however, the European Commission has now changed its position.

Last week it confirmed support for a draft law which accepts gene-editing equivalent to conventional breeding – just a lot quicker, more productively and cheaper. So will the Scottish Government accept what our own scientists are helping to create – now that Brussels says it’s OK? Or will the Greens retain the uniquely Scottish veto?

It’s the kind of dilemma which arises from playing politics with absolutely everything. An ambitious environmental strategy need not conflict with economic and social objectives but consensus is a lot more likely through discussion with those in the front line. Surely the HPMA episode taught them that?

The Herald story which reported the ”biodiversity strategy delay” included quotes attributed to an SNP MSP, Jackie Dunbar. She hailed “Scotland and the EU’s shared vision for biodiversity and nature restoration – a vision that Brexit Britain is failing to live up to”. Standard stuff, though perhaps now in need of revision.

One example of superiority claimed by Ms Dunbar caught my eye. We are “investing £250 million to restore peatland”, she declared proudly, and even by Scottish Government standards a quarter billion is a fair chunk of cash. This is typical of the assumption that spending money equates to virtue.

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The merits of a scheme based on credits which will be used to offset against polluting elsewhere are unproven to say the least and the only ones making money are landowners. It will be decades before anyone can judge net benefit. Meanwhile, I can think of many better uses of a quarter billion, in the interests of Scotland’s environment.

The elephant in the room which these strategies have to dance around is the gross maldistribution of land ownership in Scotland and the fact so much of it is still run as private kingdoms, operating to their own priorities – privacy, money and “sport”. They are also well represented on the various quangos which draw up the strategies.

For example, I wonder how many estates queuing up for “peatland restoration” credits are continuing to degrade the land by failing to cull marauding deer herds, maintained for private profit and which NatureScot are supposed to control? I also wonder which subject commands greater interest in the NatureScot boardroom? Check it out, Ms Slater.

The consultation document refers coyly to the effectiveness of community-owned estates in promoting environmental schemes. Quite right. What it does not mention is that only 2.4 per cent of Scottish land is community owned, the great majority in the Western Isles, and this figure has barely shifted in 16 years of SNP government.

It is this structure of Scottish land ownership which conditions and obstructs vast swathes of public policy. A government that is serious about our environment would be more concerned with fundamental issues of ownership and control than the translocation of beavers.

Brian Wilson is a former Labour Party politician. He was MP for Cunninghame North from 1987 until 2005 and served as a Minister of State from 1997 to 2003.