Getting the best from our land – a land use strategy 2016 to 2021: first annual progress report

Since the publication of the Land Use Strategy 2016 - 2021, the Scottish Government has delivered on several of the key commitments that were set out within it. This report provides an overview of achievements to date as well as actions that remain to be completed.


Laid before the Scottish Parliament by the Scottish Ministers under section 37A of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009


Across the globe 2019 was an important year in the fight against climate change and it saw Scotland step forward as one of the first countries to publicly declare a global climate emergency. Following this declaration the Scottish Government received advice from the independent Committee on Climate Change that a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target, although highly ambitious, was now a plausible aim. The Scottish Government acted immediately and introduced amendments to the then Climate Change Bill to set a net-zero target for Scotland by 2045, and an interim target of 75% emissions reductions by 2030. These new targets will see Scotland’s contribution to climate change end, definitively, within a generation and again demonstrates Scotland’s commitment and willingness to lead the way in such a crucial area. 

As well as setting some of the most stringent statutory emissions reduction targets in the world, the 2019 Scottish Climate Change Act also introduced a new statutory duty on Scottish Ministers to report annually on progress made on the delivery of commitments in Scotland’s Land Use Strategy. This report is the first under the Act and sets out the achievements and outstanding actions under the current Strategy. 

However, 2019 was not just about a focus on climate change mitigation: it also saw the Scottish Government publish its second statutory climate change adaptation programme – setting out more than 170 policies and proposals to address the priority risks for Scotland, within an outcomes-based framework aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

This annual progress report has become due at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which the Scottish Government’s immediate actions are focused on supporting Scotland’s people and businesses in dealing with the crisis. The Government remains committed to delivering the current Land Use Strategy and its wider climate change ambitions, both on adaptation and mitigation, but the current pandemic has clearly impacted the context of this work. 


Scotland’s first Land Use Strategy was produced under a requirement of section 57 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, in recognition of the importance of land use in combatting climate change. The same legislation also placed a duty on Scottish Ministers to revise the strategy no later than five years after it was first laid before the Scottish Parliament, and to revise the Strategy again at the end of every subsequent five-year period. 

The current Strategy, Getting the best from our land – A Land Use Strategy for Scotland 2016 - 2021, sets outs nine  policies and five proposals aimed at  helping Scotland deliver on three overarching objectives:

  • Land based businesses working with nature to contribute more to Scotland’s prosperity. 
  • Responsible stewardship of Scotland’s natural resources delivering more benefits to Scotland’s people. 
  • Urban and rural communities are better connected to the land with more people enjoying the land and positively influencing land use. 

Commitment to review 

As noted above, a review of Scotland’s Land Use Strategy is due every five years, and work is beginning on the revision of the Land Use Strategy. This annual progress report on the current Strategy is not intended to pre-empt the statutory review which will result in the publication of Scotland’s Third Land Use Strategy in 2021.  

Progress in implementing the objectives, proposals and policies of the Strategy

Since the publication of the Land Use Strategy 2016 - 2021, the Scottish Government has delivered on several of the key commitments that were set out within it and made important strides towards achieving the overarching objectives. We continue to work on delivering the outstanding commitments, in particular the much-anticipated Regional Land Use Partnerships. The next section of this report provides an overview of achievements to date as well as actions that remain to be completed. More information for each of the Strategy’s nine policies and five proposals can be found in Table 1 in Annex A.

Contribution of the objectives, proposals and policies of the Strategy towards achieving Scotland’s climate and environment aims.

How we use and manage our land in Scotland is critical to tackling both the climate and environment crises. The importance of land use for mitigating and adapting to climate change has been highlighted by the UK Committee on Climate Change in their advice on setting an economy-wide net-zero emissions target for 2045 and in their recent Land Use: Policies for a Net Zero UKreport. The Scottish Government recognises this, and actions taken to fulfil commitments within the Land Use Strategy 2016 – 2021 in areas such as Agriculture and Forestry continue to contribute to the on-going drive to reduce net emissions from sources in Scotland. The Scottish Government is also clear that in parallel to moving towards net-zero emissions we need to restore and enhance Scotland’s wider natural capital, including its biodiversity.

The pivotal importance of land in these efforts is reflected in the 2018 Climate Change Plan: Third Report on Proposals and Policies 2018-2032 (RPP3), which set out indicative emissions envelopes for the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) as well as agriculture sectors to meet the previous, less challenging, target of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050. Land use will remain a cornerstone of the forthcoming recasting of the Plan in the context of the new target  of reaching net-zero by 2045 and of a green recovery from COVID-19.



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