The publication of the first Land Use Strategy in 2011 was a significant milestone for Scotland. It marked a shift in our approach to land use and set the direction for our ambitions for land use to 2050 in line with the aims of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. The complexity of land use issues remains and the need to respond to climate change pressures is pressing - as it was in 2011.
The Strategy has been the catalyst for change and this Progress Statement outlines the many activities which have contributed to that change including the restoration of Scotland's peatlands, low carbon approaches to agriculture, integrated land management projects such as the Carse of Stirling and the Land Use Strategy Regional Pilot projects and improving access to data and information which are important to land use decisions.
Climate change is a key focus of the Strategy. Scotland's peatlands will benefit from the good work being carried out as a result of the Peatland Action Project which will help manage, protect and restore peatlands to maintain their natural functions, biodiversity and benefits. This is on track to restore peatland and sequester carbon through 107 peatland management agreements and grants across Scotland. In order to demonstrate the benefits and practical implications of adopting climate change measures on their businesses, the Farming for a Better Climate budget was increased by 37% in 2014 allowing the number of focus farms to be doubled.
Putting the Land Use Strategy into practice at a regional level is vital to delivering meaningful change in the way that we use our land. Two Regional Land Use Pilots projects in the Scottish Borders and Aberdeenshire were established in 2013 to test how that might be done. These local authority led projects, which have now concluded, took an innovative approach to land use decision-making by considering existing and future land use in a collective and integrated way rather than a sector by sector approach. Evaluation of the projects has been carried out and early findings suggest that the outputs have a range of potential practical applications, although clearly we need time to assess and consider the findings.
Looking forward, I believe that the Land Use Strategy will continue to stimulate debate about how our land is used; inspire change in the way that we manage land and influence and motivate all those involved to work together to deliver sustainable land use for future generations.
Aileen McLeod MSP
Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform