Engaging and empowering communities and stakeholders in rural land use and land management in Scotland

Report on how best to assist rural communities to engage with decisions on land use and land management.

8 Summary and Conclusion

The ambition of the Scottish Government and public bodies is to learn from, and enhance engagement and empowerment in rural land use and land management. The benefits of getting it right are summarised in the table below.

Table 16: Benefits of engagement and empowerment



During planning

  • Better quality and more integrated decisions
  • Changes in understanding, new ways of thinking, and innovations
  • Consensus building for mutual benefit
  • Enhanced buy-in

During implementation

  • Collaborative action, easier and quicker implementation
  • Strengthened communities (of place or purpose) who are more resilient
  • Increased confidence, capacity and skills to adapt to new challenges
  • New social and economic opportunities realised
  • Resources of time, energy, funds, data and staff released

Both stages

  • Social capital (the sum of trust, reciprocity and exchange) is enhanced
  • Stronger working relationships and alliances between stakeholders/communities

Our research found strong foundations to build on including:

  • A positive policy context in the Community Empowerment Act, the Land Use Strategy and related land use and management policy
  • Interest and enthusiasm amongst some staff in relevant public bodies, environmental NGOs and partnership projects
  • Increased aspiration and ambition amongst some local communities
  • Examples at all scales from national level, to landscape, to local area

Engagement and empowerment can be increased by enhancing the understanding, skills and capacity within land owning and managing public bodies (and third sector organisations) and amongst local communities and stakeholders.

This includes enhanced understanding about power and the kind of power environmental public bodies have and use, and an assessment of where current work sits on the Empowerment Framework and where it could sit to increase empowerment and engagement. Greater skills are needed around how to analyse situations and how to run, or commission, facilitators to deliver good practice participation processes. Land use and land management projects must also give more attention to the implementation stage, including inclusive governance, new governance structures, accountability to stakeholders and on-going engagement.

This research showed that projects working at large scales ( e.g. landscapes or catchments) are carrying out significant levels of engagement. However, the emphasis is on activities that engage large numbers of people, without these people necessarily being able to then influence land use and land management decisions.

Typically, the power to plan and implement land use and land management activities rests with environmental public bodies and conservation third sector organisations. In the planning stage, increasing empowerment will mean sharing the decision-making with other interests and other types of organisation. At the implementation stage, empowerment could mean mandating sub groups or organisations to hold resources and responsibility for specific initiatives. The overseeing group would then take on a coordinating rather than delivery role.

Community and local engagement projects have different challenges. The evidence from this research suggests that people involved in these kinds of project want clear guidance, simpler bureaucracy and practical support. Care needs to be taken to ensure local groups are working for and with the local community, and not for the interests of a vocal minority.

Well-designed and delivered engagement and empowerment initiatives harness untapped and previously unknown resources for change. This brings greater benefits for people, livelihoods, wellbeing, nature and landscapes.


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