Land use

The twin climate change and environment crises mean considerations as to how we own, use and manage our land have never been as important as they are now. Scotland’s land and the natural capital it supports are some of our most valuable assets. It is vital to our environment, economy and wellbeing as individuals and communities.

Regional Land Use Partnerships

Regional Land Use Partnerships (RLUPs) are partnerships facilitating collaboration between local and national government, communities, land owners, land managers, and wider stakeholders. They will enable natural capital-led consideration of how to maximise the contribution that our land can make to addressing the twin climate and  biodiversity crises. They will help to optimise land use in a fair and inclusive way – meeting local and national objectives and supporting Scotland’s just transition to net-zero.

 Pilots have been established in:

  • Cairngorms National Park
  • Highland Council area
  • Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
  • North East Region (Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City Councils)
  • South of Scotland (Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders Councils)

We are working with the pilot regions to test approaches to partnership governance that best suit the local situation and priorities. This will help inform future decisions on wider establishment of Partnerships. 

The project is pilot-led and the individual timelines will vary slightly across the regions. You can find out about the vision for RLUPs as platforms for change in Scotland’s third land use strategy and the inclusion of RLUPs in the updated climate change plan route map to 2032.

RLUPs Year 1 (2021 to 2022)

In Year 1, the RLUP pilots began to set up their governance structures. To do this they firstly developed their approaches to stakeholder engagement. The pilots also started to identify their data requirements and consider requirements for adoption of a natural capital approach.

SAC Consulting carried out a process evaluation for Year 1 of RLUP establishment (March 2021 to March 2022). The evaluation collated early insights and outlined lessons learned from the pilot work. 

RLUPs Year 2 (2022 to 2023)

In Year 2, RLUPs will start to develop their Regional Land Use Frameworks (RLUFs), which are expected to be finalised by the end of 2023. The RLUF will identify key priorities for land use within the region that align to national climate and environmental targets. Regional outcomes will be agreed by partnership members and regional stakeholders.


The 2020/21 Programme for Government reaffirmed our commitment to support the emergence of Regional Land Use Partnerships from 2021 and for Regional Land Use Frameworks to be developed by 2023.

In August 2021, the Bute House Agreement committed to planning for a second wave of RLUPs from 2023, if the pilots can demonstrate that they meet expectations relating to national outcomes on the environment and climate change, and show that they have taken a democratic, local approach.

Natural capital approach

Regional Land Use Partnerships will adopt a broad natural capital approach. This will involve looking at our land as an asset that we need to protect and enhance. In doing so, our land can continue to deliver a wide range of ecosystems service benefits such as:

  • food production
  • emissions reduction
  • carbon sequestration
  • climate adaptation
  • improved biodiversity
  • support for health and wellbeing through access to nature

As part of this approach we will be identifying nature-based solutions for climate change in support of a just transition to net zero, such as:

  • woodland expansion
  • peatland restoration
  • natural flood management
  • creating greenspaces

We are developing details of the natural capital approach in collaboration with the pilot regions, and taking into account their individual needs. 


If you would like further information on RLUPs, please email the policy team at:

Land use strategies

The establishment of the land use strategy was brought forward through a commitment of Section 57 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. This commitment was introduced to reflect the value of our land in mitigating and adapting to climate change. The act also requires Scottish ministers to produce a strategy every five years.

The third land use strategy 2021-2026 (March 2021) focuses on the integrated nature of land use and introduces a landscape based approach to demonstrating the range of demands and benefits we all get from our land.

Sustainable land use principles

The principles for sustainable land use have been a key element of our approach to land use since their inclusion in the first strategy. They offer a more extensive way to approach land use decisions and encourage consideration of a much wider range of implications and impacts, and can be used be used to guide land use choices in Scotland. View the ten principles for sustainable land use


If you would like further information on the principles for sustainable land use please e-mail the policy team at 

Annual progress report

The Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 placed a further duty on Scottish Ministers to produce annual reports on the land use strategy. 

We published the third annual progress report on Scotland’s land use strategy covers the period of March 2021 to March 2022.


If you would like further information on the Land Use Strategy please  e-mail the policy team at 

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