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.

2 Background and Context

2.1 Public Policy Drivers

Scotland's Land Use Strategy 1 co-ordinates a diverse range of policy with the goal of delivering multiple benefits from land. Crucial to this vision, communities and stakeholders are involved with and shape decisions about land, and take on direct land management where appropriate. This section provides an overview of the policy context with fuller explanation in Annex 3 and Annex 4.

Figure 1: Ecosystem Approach Principles

Figure 1: <em>Ecosystem Approach Principles</em>

2.1.1 International policy context

Scottish land use policy and community empowerment are set within a broader international context. For example:

Over 15 years ago, countries signed up to the Convention on Biodiversity ( CBD) (1992) and the Ramsar Convention (1971). Similar environmental conventions have agreed that stakeholder and community participation is a key to success. In 1995, the 'Ecosystem Approach' 2 was adopted under the CBD as the main way to deliver sustainability through "integrated and equitable management". Three years later countries signed up to twelve principles for doing that, four of which are particularly relevant to engagement (See Figure 1).

In 1998, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe ( UNECE) signed the Aarhus Convention 3 , and one of its three pillars is all about people having the right to participate in environmental decisions. This in turn led to the EU Participation Directive 4 and relevant text in other environmental Directives such as the Water Framework Directive 5 and Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive 6 .

More specifically, the Pan European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (1995) 7 included the aims of " Full public involvement in the conservation of biological and landscape diversity" and the Natura 2000 El Teide Declaration (2002) likewise set out the need for " better participation at local level". More recent agreements have also endorsed these principles.

Later in 2005, the UN supported the Brisbane Declaration 8 which sets out standards around participation.

2.1.2 UK Policy

Environmental policy was devolved to the Scottish Government under the terms of the Scotland Act 1998, but UK Government retains responsibility for meeting some international obligations such as reporting GHG emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. The UK Government Treasury also retains power over much taxation and financial support with implications for land use in Scotland.

There is regular co-ordination of activities between Government departments and agencies at a UK level, particularly in relation to international obligations that have been devolved to country agencies, such as the delivery of Water Framework Directive targets.

2.1.3 Scottish Government Policy

There is an increasing drive towards engagement and empowerment across Scottish Government. One of the key recommendations of the Christie Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services (2011) was the need for public services to be designed with, and for, people and communities, rather than being delivered 'top down' for "administrative convenience". In response to this, the Scottish Government initiated a Programme of Government that emphasised more integrated delivery of local services via partnership and collaborative working. This has given rise to an increasing emphasis on community empowerment across the Scottish Government, and environmental policy is no exception.

In Scotland the most relevant policy instruments are:

1. The 2015 Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act (and associated Action Plan) gives community bodies new rights and public bodies new duties to boost community empowerment and engagement. This Act has a number of implications for land use and land management. Via the Land Use Strategy, the Community Empowerment Act empowers communities " to influence how land is used and managed in Scotland" and includes influencing the management of privately owned land via policy instruments and " wider community opinion". The Scottish Government defines community empowerment as, " communities being supported to do things for themselves; people having their voices heard in the planning and delivery of services [through] community engagement and participation" 9 .

2. The Land Use Strategy. The Climate Change (Scotland) Act (2009) committed to the development of a Land Use Strategy that would provide 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 a second Land Use Strategy will run from March 2016 to 2021. 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 Strategies is 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 in the draft second Land Use Strategy.

3. The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill was introduced in 2015 and is currently undergoing stage 2 scrutiny in the Scottish Parliament. The vision for the Bill is to promote " a strong relationship between the people of Scotland and the land of Scotland, where ownership and use of land delivers greater public benefits through a democratically accountable and transparent system of land rights that promotes fairness and social justice, environmental sustainability and economic prosperity".

It does this via a range of measures including among other things provision for community engagement in decisions relating to land. It also enables certain types of individuals and organisations to buy land to further sustainable development, including new rights for tenants who wish to buy the land they manage. The Bill also includes a requirement that the Scottish Government issue guidance on engaging communities in decisions relating to land, which this research aims to address.

Community ownership of land is a key part of the Scottish Government's approach to community empowerment. This is based on the assumption that the acquisition and management of land can make communities stronger, more resilient and more independent. The generation of income from community activities provides communities with more confidence, cohesion and control over their future. As a result, the Scottish Government has set a target of achieving 1 million acres of land in community ownership by 2020. The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill will play an important role in reaching this goal.

4. The National Standards for Community Engagement were published in 2005 to set out best practice guidance for engagement between communities and public agencies in Scotland. The standards are based on a set of principles that emphasise fairness, equity and inclusion. The implementation of the standards is demonstrated through a number of indicators that can be used to ensure good practice and to monitor progress. The standards encompass the identification, support and involvement of relevant people and organisations, using appropriate engagement methods to facilitate partnership and collaborative working, knowledge exchange and monitoring, and the evaluation of engagement.

Background information about community empowerment and land use policy is provided in Annexes 2 and 3.

2.2 Growing need for effective engagement and empowerment

The professional environmental sector increasingly recognises the need for engagement and collaboration to integrate land management. This integration is across spatial scales, types of land use and management, sectoral interests and governance levels.

2.2.1 Integration across spatial scales

Natural processes and the benefits that they provide operate at a variety of scales from local to global. Policy functions at different levels of governance from the national and international policy community, to regional and area stakeholders, through to specific communities.

Working at large scales such as river catchments or landscapes makes sense for how natural systems work but rarely matches the administrative boundaries that public bodies use. Even less do these scales match an individual's sense of place and space, which is localised to where they live, work or visit.

2.2.2 Integration across types of land use and land management

Land use and land management that requires integrated thinking, coordinated policy development, and collaborative action include:

  • Landscape-scale projects which require cooperation and collaboration across administrative boundaries and between sectors
  • River Basin Management Plans and Programmes of Measures under the EU Water Framework Directive which require the integration of multiple complex systems involved in the management of water quality, water quantity, flood control, and water use
  • Integrated management of protected landscapes such as National Parks and National Scenic Areas
  • Management of forests and woodlands for multiple objectives including timber, fuel, carbon capture, flood mitigation, recreation, nature, learning, and wellbeing
  • Collaborative agri-environment schemes that require options to be taken up in adjacent land units, to achieve the scale needed for benefits (such as avoiding diffuse pollution, flood management, deer management, nature corridors and connectivity) to be realised
  • Strategic green infrastructure that delivers multiple benefits and works as a functional system for people, water and nature in and between urban areas
  • Deer management groups in Scotland who agree shared, landscape-scale action
  • Scotland's National Marine Plan and individual marine sites
  • Scotland's Soil Policy Framework, Peatland Plan and SNH's Peatland Action restoration programme
  • The new emphasis on tackling food, water, energy and climate change (so called 'nexus' issues) in an integrated and collaborative way, which originated in an influential 2011 report from the World Economic Forum 10 and gained further traction in the lead up to the Rio+20 Summit in 2012.
  • A further change includes the opportunities communities now have to take on the direct management of land through lease or buy out. This presents challenges of supporting communities to fulfil their ambitions whilst ensuring that their management works within the context of the wider landscape and ecosystems.

2.3 The need to synthesise knowledge, understanding and capacity

This research aims to synthesise what is already working well around engagement and empowerment in land use and land management in Scotland, and what more could be done, including in relation to:

  • Current empowerment and engagement practice, knowledge and understanding
  • Lessons learned by projects engaging and empowering communities and stakeholders in land management and land use
  • The literature about engagement and empowerment in land use and land management


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