Scotland's distinctive and diverse range of landscapes are a significant part of the country's natural and cultural heritage. They make a valuable contribution to Scotland’s economic, cultural and social interests, benefiting people’s health and wellbeing, as well as tourism and the local economy.
We ensure people may use and enjoy Scotland’s natural assets responsibly via rights of public access to land, and are working to protect and enhance the landscape while enabling sustainable economic development.
- legislating to implement rights of responsible public access to land
- working towards sustainable land use
- protecting and enhancing Scotland’s landscapes via natural heritage designations, including National Scenic Areas
- setting the policy for Scotland’s National Parks
- delivering the Central Scotland Green Network, one of the world’s biggest greenspace projects
- providing funding to Scottish Natural Heritage, our lead advisory body on landscape in Scotland
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code sets out the rights and responsibilities of people exercising access rights under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, whether they are climbing mountains or watching wildlife. The code also sets out what duties are conferred on land managers regarding responsible stewardship of their land, in recognition of these rights.
We are committed to protecting and enhancing the country's landscapes for future generations. A range of mechanisms are in place to achieve this, including statutory and non-statutory designations and planning policies. National Parks and National Scenic Areas represent the finest landscapes for which Scotland is renowned.
European Landscape Convention
The UK Government signed up to the Council of Europe’s European Landscape Convention (ELC) in November 2006.
The ELC is designed to promote the protection, management and planning of all landscapes, including natural, managed and urban areas as well as special and degraded landscapes. It aims to organise European co-operation on landscape issues. It is not a European Union (EU) Directive.
In signing the ELC, the UK committed to upholding its principles within the context of the UK’s legal and policy frameworks. However, the Council of Europe has no legal powers over its members and any country can withdraw from the Convention without penalty.
We are satisfied that our existing legislation and administrative systems for land use planning and environmental management meet the requirements of the ELC. Nevertheless, the ELC encourages us to review current landscape practices and to identify where improvements can be made.
Bills and legislation
Part 1 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 establishes a right of responsible non-motorised access to land throughout Scotland with few exceptions, for recreational, educational and some commercial purposes. Part 9 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 made minor amendments on review of core paths plans and service of court applications.
The National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 provides for the designation and administration of National Parks in Scotland. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park was established in 2002 and Cairngorms National Park was established in 2003.
Section 50 of the Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006 inserted section 263A of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 providing for designation of the current suite of 40 National Scenic Areas.
Tel: 0131 244 4439
Natural Resources Division