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

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2 The Land Use Framework

2.1 Our Vision for Land Use

Our long term Vision for sustainable land use remains valid and is a key component of the Land Use Strategy 2016 - 2021. Our Vision is to 2050 and is a high level strategic statement which reflects the varied nature of the interactions between different interests and land use. It is equally applicable across a wide range of interests for example land and water management, health, recreation, education and cultural heritage.

Our Vision

A Scotland where we fully recognise, understand and value the importance of our land resources, and where our plans and decisions about land use will deliver improved and enduring benefits, enhancing the wellbeing of our nation.

2.2 Our Land Use Objectives

The Objectives in the first Land Use Strategy are robust and fit for purpose and remain a strong and strategic framework for land use policy. In a rapidly changing world it is important that we have overarching objectives to provide a consistent framework to guide the development of more specific policy over time. The three Objectives below provide that consistency and are designed to give structure to a range of different policy areas rather than deal in specific aspects of policy development. All three Objectives carry equal weight.

Our Objectives

Land based businesses working with nature to contribute more to Scotland's prosperity

Responsible stewardship of Scotland's natural resources delivering more benefits to Scotland's people

Urban and rural communities better connected to the land, with more people enjoying the land and positively influencing land use

The policy context and evidence base has developed over the past five years, in part due to the influence of the first Land Use Strategy, and this section highlights how the Objectives and Principles are still applicable.

2.3 Land Use and Business

Land-based businesses working with nature to contribute more to Scotland's prosperity.

Scotland's land-based businesses, including small producers such as crofters, are the cornerstone of our rural economy. They support our thriving food and drink industry, provide the timber for our expanding forestry sector, contribute to the tourism industry and support the continued vitality of our rural communities by providing employment and supporting local services. They also play an essential role in maintaining and delivering many of the vital ecosystem services upon which we all depend such as clean air and water, flood protection or a rich and varied biodiversity. Often the impact of decisions taken about land use or land management will be experienced many miles away in urban areas, for example flood attenuation by tree planting to slow the flow of flood water, or peatland restoration in the uplands which benefits us all by locking up carbon and contributing to climate change mitigation.

We recognise that our land-based businesses have to operate in a commercial world and that economic margins are tight. We understand that some sectors, such as agriculture, face considerable challenges in the years ahead. That is why we are keen to have a conversation now about how we collectively tackle those challenges. The Future of Scottish Agriculture - A Discussion Document was published in June 2015 and is part of a dialogue about the future of the agriculture industry in Scotland. This has helped in identifying some of the initial actions required to assist industry in realising the outcomes in the document. Elsewhere in this Strategy we acknowledge forestry's role as a key multipurpose land use and the need to review the Scottish Forestry Strategy. We also believe there is the potential for a new strategic vision for the uplands. These are all key components of our strategic consideration of land use and each will align with the wider Vision and Objectives set out in this Land Use Strategy. We also recognise that many other sectors rely upon land as a vital component of their business. The decisions made about land use can affect them less directly or in some case have a significant impact: examples includes tourism providers, recreation based businesses, renewable energy, and the heritage sector.

Many of our land based businesses are intimately tied into the system of incentives set by the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Now that the latest reform process is complete and we have a new system in operation it is essential that we continue to ensure that we are getting the best deal for our land managers and for the wider environment. We also need to look ahead to the next CAP and make sure that Scotland and our land based businesses are in the best possible place to benefit in the future.

The first Land Use Strategy highlighted delivering multiple benefits as the necessary shift in approach to help us move towards achieving this Objective. Our objective to maximise the opportunities for land to deliver multiple economic, environmental and social benefits is still valid and at the heart of this second Land Use Strategy.

2.4 Land Use and the Environment

Responsible stewardship of Scotland's natural resources delivering more benefits to Scotland's people.

Scotland has a world renowned environment. It helps us to produce and to market our food and drink, drives a large proportion of our tourism industry and supports employment for thousands of people in our agricultural and forestry sectors. What is less well recognised is the value of the ecosystem services which are provided by the wider environment and upon which we all rely. These ecosystem services include goods which we need and use such as timber or energy, services we rely on such as water purification or climate regulation and less tangible benefits such as space for recreation or relaxation. It is essential that we better understand and properly recognise the value of the environment in the decisions we take and the way we manage our land resources. To support this, the review of the Scottish Forestry Strategy (Policy 4) will emphasise the continued protection of Scotland's forest resource.

The stocks of ecosystem services we have in Scotland can be thought of as natural assets or natural capital. Like all assets we need to manage them sensibly and sustainably so that they will continue to provide the essential services we need now and for future generations. We also need to consider the potential impact of climate change and what we can do now to mitigate or adapt to future climate change. Since the publication of the first Land Use Strategy we have promoted the wider use of an ecosystems approach. We believe this approach has potential to improve decision making by recognising and working to sustain the benefits that nature provides. In 2011 we published an information note on Applying an Ecosystems Approach to Land Use. This note summarised the three key steps which are important when using an ecosystems approach, these are:

  • Considering natural systems;
  • Taking account of the services that ecosystems provide;
  • Involving people.

Maximising the benefits provided by nature often requires co-ordinated action at a landscape scale. This is a scale at which natural systems tend to work best and where there is often most opportunity to make changes which can have real and lasting benefits. To promote this approach, the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) 2014-20 includes a new Environmental Co-operation Action Fund, which supports the costs of facilitating cooperation among groups of land managers in order to deliver landscape-scale environmental projects.

Since the publication of the first Land Use Strategy two pilot projects have been undertaken in the Scottish Borders and Aberdeenshire. These projects have worked with local stakeholders to develop land use frameworks which can be used to inform local decision making and to understand the wider implications of specific decisions. The Land Use Strategy 2016 - 2021 builds on the work undertaken by the pilot projects in terms of the partnership approach, the need to provide access to data and information and explores the ways in which the final frameworks can contribute to improved land use decision making.

The first Strategy highlighted partnerships with nature as the necessary shift in approach to help us move towards achieving this Objective. It is still the case that we need to work towards more holistic decision making which takes increased account of how nature works and of how our decisions impact on nature. A greater use of an ecosystems approach is one way to achieve this shift in approach.

2.5 Land Use and Communities

Urban and rural communities better connected to the land, with more people enjoying the land and positively influencing land use.

We are all part of a community. A community can be based on its location (for example, people who live, work or use an area) or common interest (for example, the business community, sports or heritage groups). Both need to be at the heart of decisions about land use because land is at the core of our communities. It provides places for us to live, work, and enjoy recreation. It also provides many of the ecosystem services we rely on for life itself.

When people can influence what happens in their community and contribute to delivering change, there can be many benefits. Pride in the local community can increase, people may be more inclined to go outdoors and be active, or have the opportunity to grow their own fruit and vegetables and eat more healthily. All of these things improve people's physical health, mental wellbeing and overall quality of life.

It has also been shown that most people feel that they should be involved in local land use decisions beyond the rights already provided by the statutory planning system; this is why we need to encourage better connections between communities and the land. An example of how we have helped create this stronger connection between local communities and land is through Forestry Commission Scotland's National Forest Land Scheme. Since its launch in 2005, nineteen local communities have taken on the ownership and management of over 3,000 hectares of forestry to deliver their local development aspirations e.g. local employment, community-based firewood businesses, etc.

These findings are reflected in the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015. It gives communities the mechanisms to achieve their own goals and aspirations, including provisions to allow communities to purchase abandoned or neglected land in both urban and rural areas. The recently passed Land Reform (Scotland) Bill also impacts on land use. It includes a requirement for the creation of a Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement which will contain a set of principles to guide the development of public policy on the nature and character of land rights and responsibilities in Scotland. The Bill also requires Scottish Ministers to issue guidance about engaging communities in decisions relating to land and provides for a new right to buy for communities in order to further sustainable development. These major initiatives by the Scottish Government demonstrate how seriously we take the relationship between communities and land. Through these two pieces of legislation we are working to articulate what the relationship between communities and land should look like in a modern, responsible nation.

Community ownership is at the heart of the Scottish Government's community empowerment agenda. The acquisition and management of land can make a major contribution towards creating stronger, more resilient and more independent communities. Not only can community ownership help to protect or enhance local facilities, it is also seen as a means to generate income for community activity, increase community confidence and cohesion, enable communities to have more control over their futures, and support economic regeneration and sustainable development of the community. The Scottish Government has an important role in supporting communities who have the ambition to take on ownership of land, and to demonstrate this commitment has set a target of achieving one million acres of land in community ownership by 2020.

The Land Use Strategy 2016 - 2021 builds on the above legislation and targets by recognising the need for people to be better connected with their land and outlines steps to help make that happen. We also recognise the need to assist communities to become more resilient to climate change impacts, for example land use decisions can assist local communities to prepare and respond to adverse weather events. Land use partnerships (Policy 7) are one way to help people consider what the impacts of climate change may look like for their community and what land use related mitigation or adaptation actions might be taken.

The first Strategy highlighted linking people with the land as the necessary shift in approach to help us move towards achieving this Objective. We have made significant progress in the past five years with the legislation mentioned above, in terms of empowering local communities and in relation to the place making agenda which is central to planning policy. But much still remains to be done in terms of realising the community benefits that flow from land, building stronger connections between people and land, and helping communities to engage with climate change and build their resilience to climate change impacts.

2.6 Principles for Sustainable Land Use

The Principles for Sustainable Land Use are a strong and useful component of policy and should continue to inform land use choices across Scotland. National Planning Framework 3 and Scottish Planning Policy recognise their value when making decisions about the use and management of Scotland's land. Scottish Planning Policy, for example, includes advice to planning authorities about using the Principles.

The Principles offer a more extensive way to approach land use decisions and encourage consideration of a much wider range of implications and impacts than is possible with a sectoral approach. Not all Principles will be applicable in every situation. However, some, such as Principle a, dealing with multiple benefits, or Principle f, dealing with climate change, are likely to be broadly applicable.

We expect that the Principles for Sustainable Land Use will be used by public bodies when making plans and taking significant decisions affecting the use of land and strongly encourage individuals, businesses and organisations that have significant land management responsibilities to have regard to them. These Principles are:

a) Opportunities for land use to deliver multiple benefits should be encouraged.

b) Regulation should continue to protect essential public interests whilst placing as light a burden on businesses as is consistent with achieving its purpose. Incentives should be efficient and cost-effective.

c) Where land is highly suitable for a primary use (for example food production, flood management, water catchment management and carbon storage) this value should be recognised in decision-making.

d) Land use decisions should be informed by an understanding of the functioning of the ecosystems which they affect in order to maintain the benefits of the ecosystem services which they provide.

e) Landscape change should be managed positively and sympathetically, considering the implications of change at a scale appropriate to the landscape in question, given that all Scotland's landscapes are important to our sense of identity and to our individual and social wellbeing.

f) Land-use decisions should be informed by an understanding of the opportunities and threats brought about by the changing climate. Greenhouse gas emissions associated with land use should be reduced and land should continue to contribute to delivering climate change adaptation and mitigation objectives.

g) Where land has ceased to fulfil a useful function because it is derelict or vacant, this represents a significant loss of economic potential and amenity for the community concerned. It should be a priority to examine options for restoring all such land to economically, socially or environmentally productive uses.

h) Outdoor recreation opportunities and public access to land should be encouraged, along with the provision of accessible green space close to where people live, given their importance for health and well-being.

i) People should have opportunities to contribute to debates and decisions about land use and management decisions which affect their lives and their future.

j) Opportunities to broaden our understanding of the links between land use and daily living should be encouraged.