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Getting The Best From Our Land: A Land Use Strategy For Scotland 2016 - 2021

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1 Introduction

The publication of Scotland's first Land Use Strategy was a step change in the Scottish Government's approach to land use. With its publication, Scotland led the UK in the consideration of land as a fundamental resource for the nation. The first Strategy provided a policy agenda for all land in Scotland and set out a direction of travel towards a more integrated and strategic approach to land use. It recognised the benefits we all derive from land, including underpinning our economic prosperity, assisting with measures to both mitigate and adapt to climate change and the need to ensure a sustainable future for our land. Decisions about the way land is managed are important to balance pressures on ecosystem services due to climate change.

Since publication of the first Land Use Strategy in 2011, we have made considerable progress in delivering against the agenda. Information about progress against the activities in the Action Plan is recorded in the annual Progress Statements. Recognising land as a fundamental resource which is vital for a successful economy, for the environment and for communities is as clear today as it was five years ago when the first Strategy was issued. The increasing complexity of land related matters in Scotland is recognised and the second Land Use Strategy deals with the key issues which we believe will impact upon Scotland during the next five years from 2016 - 2021.

We have learned much from delivery of the first Strategy and there has been extensive research work undertaken by the Scottish Government and through our strategic research programme. We have initiated two regional land use pilot projects and have been assisted by a wide range of work from our key delivery partners. An extensive range of stakeholders also input to the work of the Land Use Strategy on a regular basis and come together annually to consider progress and to input ideas about delivery and development.

1.1 Scotland's First Land Use Strategy

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 requires the Land Use Strategy to be reviewed every five years and a revised document to be laid before the Scottish Parliament. The review was informed by stakeholder workshops, the outputs and evaluation of the two regional land use pilot projects, a public consultation on the draft Land Use Strategy 2016 - 2021, and by on-going policy considerations. It reflects the changing landscape of ideas since 2011. Further information on the review process, such as related documentation on the pilot projects and public consultation, including the Consultation Report, can be found on the Land Use Strategy webpages.

The first Land Use Strategy provides a strong foundation upon which to move forward with delivery. We deliberately took a cautious approach in the first Strategy because we felt there was much that we did not know or fully understand. Despite that caution we have achieved much, as our annual Progress Statements show. However, climate change remains a pressing matter, as do a number of other issues, such as the decline in some of our biodiversity. We are keen to build on the success of the two land use pilot projects and to complement the work underway in the land reform agenda, including through the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill, and through the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.

Land use is driven by a wide range of considerations and change tends to happen slowly and for the longer term. The drivers of change include the priorities of those who manage the land, market influences, the incentives and regulations which impact upon particular areas and the capacity of the local area. However, what is always required is a consistent approach to policy and to decision making.

This need for consistency is reflected in our approach to the second Land Use Strategy which maintains the direction of travel and the Vision, Objectives and Principles from the first Strategy.

1.2 The Next Five Years

The Land Use Strategy 2016 - 2021 builds on the strong framework set out in 2011. We are clear that our goal of long term, well integrated, sustainable land use delivering multiple benefits for all in society remains valid and achievable.

The central framework of the second Land Use Strategy therefore remains the same - the Vision, Objectives and Principles for Sustainable Land Use. These have extensive support amongst stakeholders and are widely accepted as fit for purpose in terms of providing the strategic direction for sustainable land use matters. They represent a long term view to guide policy and decision making, and ensure consistency and stability of purpose for our land resources in Scotland. For that reason this document does not reiterate what has already been said in the first Land Use Strategy. The policy direction remains constant with the central components remaining in place. The Land Use Strategy 2016 - 2021 focuses on the priority activities for the next five year period and represents a programme of action. A suite of policies and proposals has been developed and where appropriate a broad indication of next steps and timing is provided in this document. These are presented under the following three themes:

Policy Context - policies and proposals which provide further clarity on current Scottish Government policy and reinforce and ensure consistent messages.

Informed Decision Making - policies and proposals which underpin decision making with improved data, increased accessibility and wider empowerment of communities and stakeholders in decision making.

Applying the Principles - policies and proposals which apply the Land Use Strategy Principles on the ground, either as specific projects or in ways which influence direct change on the ground.

The central framework of Vision, Objectives and Principles, and the policies and proposals which follow, support the Scottish Government's central purpose as set out in Scotland's Economic Strategy published in March 2015; to create a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth. The Land Use Strategy also supports the three underpinning principles in A Stronger Scotland, The Government's Programme for Scotland 2015-16 published in September 2015:

  • The need to deliver greater prosperity for our country;
  • Ensuring that there is fairness in how our nation's wealth, resources and opportunities are distributed;
  • Making sure that we encourage and facilitate participation by everyone in the debates and decisions that matter to them most, regardless of their circumstances or backgrounds.

Next Steps

We will develop and publish a more detailed reporting framework by December 2016.