About this Report
This report provides an analysis of written responses to the Scottish Government consultation on its draft Land Use Strategy (LUS) for Scotland 2016 to 2021.
Overview of Responses
A total of 166 responses were received to the consultation. This included 54 individual respondents and 112 organisational respondents. Organisational responses came from public, private and third sector organisations, representative or professional bodies, academic or research bodies and other organisations.
Vision, Objectives and Principles
The majority of respondents (71 per cent) felt that the Vision, Principles and Objectives were still fit for purpose. There were clear differences in opinion between respondent categories. Public sector, third sector, private sector and academic organisations were most in agreement, whereas individuals and those in the 'other' organisational respondent category were least in agreement.
Natural Resource Management
The majority of respondents (83 per cent) agreed that the continued use of an ecosystems approach was an effective way to manage Scotland's natural capital. These respondents felt that this was essential and fundamental to the LUS. The main reason for individuals not supporting the approach was a perception that this would result in preservation without recognising change.
Just over half of respondents (53 per cent) said that the relationship of the LUS to other policies (as set out in the draft Strategy) was clear. Some of these respondents said that it was proportionate, and managed to show clear linkages in a summarised way across a very complex area. Other respondents raised issues over the relative hierarchy of policies and strategies.
Almost all respondents (91 per cent) felt that the proposed information and awareness raising activities could be useful, as there was a lot of uncertainty about how the LUS related to the statutory planning system.
Many respondents indicated that the Scottish Forestry Strategy was still highly relevant, but recognised that it was in need of a light touch refresh. In addition, some respondents felt that the ecosystems approach outlined in the LUS should also be built into the Scottish Forestry Strategy.
The majority of respondents (63 per cent) agreed that there would be advantages in having a single policy statement covering ownership, use and management, as it would provide clarity on the priorities for Scotland's land. The main reason given by those who did not agree was that it would be too challenging to develop given the complexity of the relationships between ownership, use and management.
Informed Decision Making
Ecosystems Services Mapping and Tools
A clear majority of respondents (89 per cent) agreed that models and Geographic Information System (GIS) tools could help inform decision making about land use and management change. These respondents felt that the provision of spatial information was both useful and informative, and could help stakeholders to visualise information more easily. One of the key reasons given by those who did not support the proposal was that land use decisions could not be based solely on information from models and tools, and needed to be backed up with local knowledge and information.
Regional Land Use Partnerships
The majority of respondents (78 per cent) agreed that land use partnerships would be useful in delivering the LUS at a regional level, and that it would help to bring together all interested parties. Some of these respondents also stressed the importance of ensuring that the geographical distribution of these partnerships was appropriate, practical and based on meaningful geographic divisions. Others suggested that it made sense to build on existing structures, rather than creating additional structures. A few respondents who disagreed with the proposal, questioned whether regional land use partnerships were necessary, and expressed concern that they might place greater burdens on partners.
Regional Land Use Frameworks
The majority of respondents (74 per cent) agreed that regional land use frameworks could help to inform regional/ local decision making. Respondents felt that this would help to bring stakeholders together, build a better understanding of land use issues, competing interests and priorities, and get communities involved in decision making about their local area. Some of these respondents also highlighted the importance of these frameworks being set at the right scale, and having clear guidance on how 'regions' would be defined. The main concerns raised by those who did not support the proposal were that the resource implications of producing the frameworks were likely to outweigh any potential benefits.
Respondents also outlined a number of areas where more development was required, including:
- ensuring effective community and stakeholder engagement;
- improving alignment with existing policies, plans and strategies;
- providing access to data and mapping tools;
- influencing funding decisions; and
- developing guidance, support and learning from the LUS pilots.
Land Use Mediation and Facilitation
The majority of respondents (85 per cent) agreed that mediation or facilitation could be useful in a land use context, particularly where there were competing interests and opposing views.
Applying the Principles
Respondents identified a number of suggestions, and other potential measures to encourage climate friendly farming and crofting, grouped under the following themes:
- diversification of land use;
- clearer policy context;
- financial incentives and support;
- provision of advice and knowledge sharing;
- food production; and
- carbon management and monitoring.
The majority of respondents (76 per cent) agreed that more localised map-based ecosystems assessments could be useful in helping to inform funding decisions, particularly given the current constraints on budgets. Some respondents - mainly from the third sector - said that this approach should be used along with other tools. The main reasons given by those who did not support a map-based approach, was that it was too complicated, and might be resource intensive.
The majority of respondents (74 per cent) also agreed that an assessment of ecosystems health and a spatial approach to inform Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) targeting would be helpful, and should be central to understanding what the funding priorities of the next SRDP should be.
The main concerns expressed by respondents who either disagreed with the approach, or were unsure if the approach would be helpful, were that the concept of ecosystem health was not sufficiently developed or understood to form the basis of the approach, and it was not clear how the accuracy of the assessment could be guaranteed.
Urban Land Use
The majority of respondents (78 per cent) agreed that an urban pilot could be useful, welcoming the recognition that the LUS related to all land, not just rural land. Respondents were keen to prioritise the urban-rural interface, and also peri-urban areas. Some highlighted that the pilot should recognise that there are different challenges and issues to implementing an ecosystems approach in an urban environment.
Upland Land Use
The majority of respondents (84 per cent) agreed with the proposal that a strategic vision for the uplands would be useful, and that this would be a welcome step to determining priorities for land use in the uplands. Some respondents who did not support this proposal felt that there was no need for a separate upland strategy, as the LUS takes an integrated approach and covers all types of land.
Monitoring Delivery of the Strategy
Less than half of respondents (44 per cent) agreed that the LUS indicators were still fit for purpose. Almost a quarter disagreed (23 per cent), and a third (33 per cent) were unsure. Those who agreed highlighted the importance of keeping indicators consistent, in order to track trends. However, many who disagreed, or said that they did not know, highlighted a number of concerns, including:
- the indicators were too high level;
- the indicators may not provide useful information;
- the environmental outcomes may not be effectively measured;
- the indicators were largely quantitative; and
- the relationships between indicators needed to be considered.
Respondents were invited to provide additional suggestions on other activities that should be undertaken to achieve a better understanding and application of the Principles or delivery of the LUS. Their suggestions and comments fell into two main themes around the importance of community engagement and building relationships.
In relation to the Environmental Report:
- the majority of respondents (62 per cent) either agreed, or partially agreed that the Environmental Report set out an accurate description of the current environmental issues/ baseline;
- over half of respondents (59 per cent) either agreed, or partially agreed that the predicted environmental effects set out within the Environmental Report were accurate; and
- over half of respondents (55 per cent) either agreed or partially agreed that the recommendations and opportunities for mitigation and enhancement contained within the Environmental Report were accurate.
Few respondents (28) commented on the impact of the policies and proposals on equalities groups. Most of those who commented felt that there would be no negative impact. However, a small number of organisations commented that it was important to follow good practice on accessibility, particularly in relation to the needs of older and disabled people.
Email: Sally Thomas