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.

Annex 4 Land Use Policy

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act (2009) committed to the development of a Land Use Strategy that provides a strategic vision and policy agenda for a more integrated approach to land use and management in Scotland. The first Land Use Strategy ran from 2011-2016, and the second strategy will come into effect in March 2016, running to 2021. Two Land Use Strategy Regional Framework Pilots were published in 2015, exploring novel methods for engaging communities in land use planning and other decisions relating to the future management of land. Evaluations of the delivery of the first Land Use Strategy identified shortcomings in the translation of principles from the strategy on the ground. Combining the findings of the reviews with evidence from the pilots, there is likely to be a much stronger emphasis on the empowerment of communities in decision-making to deliver principles in the second Land Use Strategy.

The first strategy set out the need for urban and rural communities to be better connected to the land, with more people enjoying the land and positively influencing land use and land management. One of the ten principles that underpins the first and second strategy was that " people should have opportunities to contribute to debates and decisions about land use and management decisions which affect their lives and their future". One of the 13 actions for Scottish Government identified in the first strategy was to " identify and publicise effective ways for communities to contribute to land-use debates and decision-making".

Building on this, the second Land Use Strategy focuses on informed decision-making, including "increased accessibility and wider empowerment of communities and stakeholders in decision making", as one of three core themes. This has been informed by the findings of two Land Use Strategy Regional Framework Pilots, which explored a range of novel methods for engaging communities in land use planning and other decisions relating to the future management of land. Evaluations of the delivery of the first Land Use Strategy identified shortcomings in the translation of principles from the strategy on the ground. Combining the findings of the reviews with evidence from the pilots, there is a much stronger emphasis on community empowerment to deliver principles in the draft second Land Use Strategy. It is proposed in the second strategy that informed decision-making may be facilitated via ecosystem service mapping, regional land use partnerships and frameworks, and land use facilitation and mediation.

The first Land Use Strategy identified all policies that related to land use in Scotland to develop an integrative vision for future land use. This analysis forms the basis of the continued vision of the second strategy. Policy instruments linked to land use include:

  • The Scottish Forestry Strategy 1 which sets out a vision of a forestry sector " that is diverse and strong; in tune with the environment; employing many people in a wide range of enterprises; and providing the many other services and benefits that people need, now and for the future". Linked to this, the Forestry Commission Scotland's National Forest Land Scheme has helped create a stronger connection between local communities and land. Since 2005, nineteen local communities have taken over ownership and management of >3,000 hectares of forestry to deliver local aspirations.
  • The National Planning Framework 2 recognises the increasing shortage of affordable housing for many rural communities in Scotland, and states that "planning authorities should support, protect and enhance open space and opportunities for sport and recreation". Linked to this, the National Forest Land Scheme 3 gives community organisations, NGOs, and housing bodies the opportunity to buy or lease National Forest Land to provide public benefits, including affordable housing and woodland crofts
  • Access to much of the Scottish landscape is facilitated through the statutory right of access (often referred to as the 'right to roam') under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, subject to specific exclusions and as long as users behave responsibly. Under this legislation, local authorities and National Park Authorities must draw up a plan of core paths in their area, after consulting with local communities, land managers and path users. This is accompanied by the Scottish Outdoor Access Code 4 and the Woods In And Around Towns 5 initiative to promote active travel and healthy communities
  • The Scottish Sustainable Communities Initiative 6 (launched in 2008) encourages the creation of places that are " designed and built to last, where a high quality of life can be achieved". This involved a series of charrette workshops where local authorities, landowners, the development industry and others discussed proposals with communities to create more ambitious, sustainable and inspiring places
  • The Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act (2010) 7 aims to improve the governance of crofting by addressing absenteeism and land speculation, for example by establishing a Crofting Register
  • The Climate Change (Scotland) Act (2009) 8 (which included the commitment to develop a Land Use Strategy) aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a low carbon economy through the establishment of ambitions GHG reduction targets: 42% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. There is also a Climate Change Adaptation Framework 9 , designed to help communities adapt to the effects of climate change
  • The Climate Change (Scotland) Act links to a collaborative approach to flood risk management planning in the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act (2009) 10 designed to help communities to deal with flood risks, and promote upstream land use and management practices that can alleviate flood risk

Building on the integrative vision of the first strategy, the draft second Land Use Strategy identifies the following policy areas where further action may be needed in the next five years:

  • Using an Ecosystem Approach to better understand and manage natural resources for productive purposes, whilst conserving stocks of ecosystem services for future generations
  • Ensuring relevant sectoral strategies ( e.g. in marine, forestry and agriculture) take account of the Land Use Strategy Objectives and Principles in their design and delivery
  • Information and awareness-raising to provide clarity on implications of the Land Use Strategy for the planning system and development planning, and how the Ecosystem Approach can be used in Strategic Environmental Assessment
  • Reviewing the Scottish Forestry Strategy
  • Facilitating access to data about land ownership and management via the Land Use Data Directory
  • Encouraging the establishment of regional land use partnerships
  • Developing and implementing measures to facilitate a step change in climate friendly farming and crofting
  • Developing a more targeted approach in the current Scottish Rural Development Programme Agri-Environment Climate Scheme, using more localized, map-based assessments of ecosystem services to inform funding decisions

The draft second Land Use Strategy also makes a number of other proposals, including:

  • Considering the advantages and drawbacks of a single policy statement about land which deals with ownership, use and management
  • Further exploring the development of regional land use frameworks for rural areas of Scotland
  • Exploring options for facilitation and/or mediation between land owners/managers and communities
  • Scoping the potential to develop a strategic vision for Scottish uplands


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