Guidance on engaging communities in decisions relating to land: consultation

Consultation on new guidance to encourage co-operative and positive working relationships between local communities and land-owners.

Chapter 1: The role of the Guidance


1. Under Part 4 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 [1] ("the Act"), Scottish Ministers have a duty to issue "guidance about engaging communities in decisions relating to land which may affect communities" ("the Guidance").

2. In recent years, there has been a positive change in the tone and emphasis of the debate around land reform. Land owners and land managers are benefiting from the considerable, and mutual, advantages of engaging local communities in decisions relating to land. Many land owners and land managers have supported their local communities by allowing the sale, lease or use of land for a range of purposes including housing, allotments, cycle paths, renewable energy generation, and buildings for community business or recreational spaces.

3. The Scottish Government welcomes all examples of successful community engagement. We wish to encourage further dialogue and engagement between land owners and managers, and those who are affected by the decisions taken on land management and use.


4. The purpose of the Guidance is to encourage land owners and land managers to develop co-operative and positive working relationships with local communities. The aim is to support good working practices that can lead to mutually beneficial solutions to land-related problems and better local outcomes for economic, environmental, social or cultural issues. The Guidance will not replace or duplicate statutory requirements for community consultation and engagement where these exist.

National Outcomes and related policy

5. The Scottish Government's Purpose is: "To focus government and public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth." [2] This is supported by 16 National Outcomes that provide a high-level overarching policy framework for what the Scottish Government wants to achieve and the kind of Scotland we want to see.

6. The Guidance responds to 7 of the Scottish Government's National Outcomes:

  • We live in a Scotland that is the most attractive place for doing business in Europe.
  • We have tackled the significant inequalities in Scottish society.
  • We live in well-designed sustainable places where we are able to access the amenities and services we need.
  • We have strong, resilient and supportive communities where people take responsibility for their own actions and how they affect others.
  • We value and enjoy our built and natural environment and protect and enhance it for future generations.
  • We reduce the local and global environmental impact of our consumption and production.
  • Our public services are high quality, continually improving, efficient and responsive to local people's needs.

7. The Guidance relates to a range of land-related policies, such as the Land Use Strategy [3] and the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement [4] , aimed at addressing land-related issues, promoting fairer, more sustainable land use and management, and increasing community involvement in important decisions relating to land.

Relationship with Part 5 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016

8. Part 5 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 ("Part 5") provides communities with a right to buy land to further sustainable development. Under the provisions, Scottish Ministers have the power to consent to the transfer of land to a community body, or a nominated third party, where certain conditions are met: including that the transfer is likely to deliver significant benefit to the community, and further sustainable development in relation to the land. Part 5 has not yet been commenced, meaning that these powers are not yet in force, however it is intended that they will become operational in 2018.

9. There is a link between the powers under Part 5 and the Guidance on engaging communities on decisions relating to land. Section 56(4) of the Act states: "In determining whether an application to buy land meets the sustainable development conditions […] the Scottish Ministers may take into account the extent to which, in relation to the relevant community, regard has been had to guidance issued under Section 44." This means that if a land owner has not shown regard to the Guidance, Scottish Ministers could consider this as part of the evidence provided by a community body to support an application for the right to buy land to further sustainable development. This would be the case for any land owner.

10. Lack of regard to the Guidance would not, in and of itself, be sufficient grounds for Scottish Ministers to approve a transfer of land, nor would it be a necessary condition for such a transfer. The Guidance should not be regarded as an overriding factor in determining the success of an application under the right to buy for the purposes of sustainable development.


Email: Land Reform Team

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