Behaviour change and attitudes in the Scottish agricultural sector – a rapid evidence assessment

The Scottish Government is committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture as part of Scotland’s target to reach net-zero emissions by 2045. To meet this very challenging target, the sector and Government are likely to have to take steps to ensure uptake of all available emission-reduction technologies and practices by all farmers. Understanding behavioural change and attitudes will therefore be critical in order to develop policies and work with industry to deliver this goal.

This study explores the evidence for factors behind adoption of climate-friendly agricultural practices. It examines interventions across personal, institutional, farm-structural and socio-demographic factors to encourage practice change, and the key factors that influence successful adoption.

Key findings

Adoption factors:

  • Most studies analyse the impact of more than one factor on adoption. This is in line with the wide understanding that behaviours are the outcome of interrelated and complementary influences.
  • We found adoption was determined partly by earlier or concurrent choices.  
  • The evidence demonstrates that farmers are influenced by their peers (usually sharing geography and farm type), indicating the need for interventions supporting collaborative networks. 
  • Adoption factors are useful for explaining different behaviour and/or defining shared characteristics of farmers. This helps identify which practices might be more successfully adopted in a particular region by specific farm types, and thus assist with tailoring policy interventions.


  • The more closely tailored an intervention is to the characteristics and needs of the target population, the more effective it seems to be.
  • Compliance is positively related to the level of incentive payments. This suggests a focus solely on enhancing environmental outcomes may be less effective than coupling them with those interventions better tuned to economic considerations.
  • Training and advice, supported within a collaborative framework, are effective on their own and even more so when used as additional incentives to assist other forms of interventions, in both the short and long term. They may be more effective when framed as industry-focused, rather than climate-focused.