Getting the best from our land: land use strategy for Scotland

Scotland's land use strategy.

2 Land use and business

Objective: Land-based businesses working with nature to contribute more to Scotland's prosperity

Scotland's land-based businesses make a significant contribution to sustainable economic growth. They provide jobs and income, often in areas where other commercial opportunities are limited, and they support other industries which further contribute to our economy. Land-based businesses are the cornerstone of many rural communities, they manage many of our natural and cultural resources and they help to shape our landscapes and heritage.

We need to build on the many successes of our land-based businesses in delivering a wide range of benefits and in providing stewardship of the environment around us, while recognising the many competing pressures faced by individual land managers and their dependence on our natural resources. Key policies in support of this Objective are set out in 2.1 to 2.5.

2.1 Managing key resources strategically

Some types of land have particular value in delivering benefits of key strategic importance, helping to ensure that we continue to meet our long-term needs. For this reason we have policies in place to safeguard such types of land against inappropriate use.

For example, in support of our goals on food security 7 , we should continue to ensure that our prime agricultural land retains its capacity for food production. The importance of this land is already recognised in planning policy and, as explained in the Rationale for Woodland Expansion 8 , the main focus of woodland creation will be away from prime agricultural land.

The Government has committed to increasing the rate of woodland expansion, so as to realise a range of benefits such as carbon sequestration. Such expansion would take Scotland's woodland cover to 25 per cent by 2050. In achieving this, we must continue to ensure that the right trees are planted in the right places - avoiding, for example, areas of deeper peat soil where the carbon losses from soil disturbance could outweigh the gains in climate change mitigation 9 . In addition, it is important to protect the woodlands that we already have, and so woodland removal will only be permitted where it will result in significant additional public benefit. In some cases, new trees may need to be planted on site or elsewhere to compensate for those removed, as described in our Policy on Woodland Removal 10 .

Renewable energy is another key resource in Scotland. We have recently raised our targets for renewable energy generation to 80 per cent of the demand for Scottish electricity and 11 per cent of Scotland's heat by 2020 11 . Hydro-electric and onshore wind power are currently the main sources of renewable energy supplies, but as other technologies become commercially viable these will increasingly be part of a wider renewables mix including biomass, solar, energy from waste and landfill gas, and offshore wind, wave and tidal power generation.

Through Scottish Planning Policy, the Government promotes the development of wind farms in locations where the technology can operate efficiently and environmental and cumulative impacts can be satisfactorily addressed 12 . Planning policy requires that the design and location of any wind farm development should reflect the scale and character of the landscape, with the location of turbines being considered carefully to ensure that the landscape and visual impact is minimised. Development plans must set out spatial frameworks for onshore wind farms generating over 20 MW, identifying potential constraints such as the effects on landscapes, natural heritage and historic environments as well as any cumulative impacts likely to arise.

The Government gave financial assistance to establish these frameworks; has published online renewables planning advice with a section devoted to spatial frameworks 13 ; and is working with SNH to build a national picture of the areas of search, areas with potential constraints and areas requiring significant protection identified in individual frameworks. SNH provides locational and impact assessment guidance for siting wind farms of all scales 14 . Research is being undertaken to refine the carbon calculator method of calculating the impact of wind farm developments 15 on the carbon held in peat.

2.2 Integrating different land uses

Many land managers integrate multiple uses of the land already, finding that the different uses to which land is put often complement and reinforce one another, building their businesses' capacities to deal with change and manage risks. However, others are not necessarily aware of the opportunities to make the most of their land. Initiatives such as the Whole Farm Review Scheme 16 help farmers and crofters to take a fresh look at their business and consider how it might be improved and developed in order to maximise all its assets. In some cases, incentives can help land managers to realise opportunities, for example by providing grants towards the costs of developing on-farm tourist accommodation. Many such grants are provided through the Scotland Rural Development Programme ( SRDP), a programme of economic, environmental and social measures designed to develop rural Scotland from 2007 to 2013.

There are already many excellent examples of where land managers optimise the use of land for a range of different purposes, all of which contribute to improving the overall success of the business. Historic and cultural environments often give an added dimension to ecotourism businesses; outdoor recreation is often pursued alongside productive agriculture or forestry. Integrated land use improves our urban as well as rural areas; for example in towns, local energy and food production can be integrated into green spaces and buildings, providing land-based resources at the heart of our urban communities.

2.3 Promoting good decision-making

In traditional policy-making, individual sectors such as agriculture, forestry or renewable energy have often been considered in isolation. A strategic approach, considering land use as a whole, gives us a wider range of opportunities to optimise land use.

Public bodies are increasingly working to integrate their thinking and action on land use through mechanisms such as single outcome agreements, development plans and river basin management plans. The Land Use Strategy's long-term, strategic approach and Principles for Sustainable Land Use help promote and demonstrate this joined-up thinking. Mainstreaming the Land Use Strategy's approach and Principles for Sustainable Land Use will mean that Government policies can better support the long-term development of land-based businesses.

The Farming for a Better Climate 17 initiative is an example of where a clearer understanding of farmers' needs has already allowed us to provide advice to farmers on how to achieve the policy aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, whilst at the same time reducing business costs. The Skills Development Scheme 18 is another example of broader support available to land managers. Under this scheme, the Government helps land managers to set up workshops and training programmes that improve business and land management skills, supporting them to make the right decisions for their land.

2.4 Improving regulations and incentives

As well as produce and products for the consumer, land-based businesses deliver a wide range of other benefits, both now and for future generations, for which the market may not pay fully. The Government helps to support those who are managing the land to deliver public goods, for example through the SRDP.

As well as incentives for desired outcomes, we also have regulations to prevent adverse impacts and unintended negative consequences from land use. The consequences of certain land management practices can be significant; for example, where inappropriate application of fertiliser leads to diffuse water pollution and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. However, we recognise the importance for regulations to be proportionate to the requirements of the public interest. Cross-compliance 19 is an example of attaching suitable conditions to financial incentives associated with land use, with land managers who wish to receive Single Farm Payments being required to comply with existing statutory requirements and a code of Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition.

The Scottish Government continues to actively manage this incentive and regulation regime. It is a complex framework, and we rely on many sources of expertise and research 20 . Other public sector partners assist in this regard, such as SEPA in its ongoing work on better regulation 21 . This continuing work on developing regulations and incentives will follow the Principles in this Strategy.

2.5 Responding to climate change

In Low Carbon Scotland: Meeting the Emissions Reduction Targets 2010-2022, we set out a package of proposals and policies for delivering reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. We explain that a significant proportion of emissions from rural land use come from nitrogen fertiliser use, which produces nitrous oxide and from livestock's digestive systems, which produce methane. We also address how changes in the way land is used impact on the release, or sequestration, of carbon dioxide into soils and vegetation.

There are significant opportunities for land use to adopt practices which reduce emissions and increase sequestration of greenhouse gases, while at the same time supporting a broader move to a low-carbon economy. Our Farming for a Better Climate initiative targets five key aspects, many of which potentially qualify for grant funding and which can help develop and diversify businesses. These include using energy and fuels efficiently; developing renewable energy; locking carbon into the soil and vegetation; optimising the application of fertiliser and manures; and optimising livestock management and storage of waste.

As described in our Rationale for Woodland Expansion, 22 without additional plantings by 2020 the net amount of carbon sequestered by forestry will fall. To sustain the contribution from forestry we need to increase woodland creation rates to at least 10,000 hectares per year and to sustain this rate thereafter, ensuring that new planting is sympathetic to the local landscape and wider environment, as described above.

A thriving timber industry will play an important part in the contribution that the woodland and forestry sector can make to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while using wood for fuel has a part to play in meeting our renewable heat targets. Our Scottish Forestry Strategy 23 describes the actions that we are taking in support of these aims. To further reduce the environmental impact of timber harvesting the Strategic Timber Transport Fund supports projects to mitigate the impact of timber transport, and the Timberlink Public Service Contract ships timber between Argyll and Ayrshire instead of using rural roads.

Scotland's Climate Change Adaptation Framework considers a range of different land based sectors including agriculture and forestry and provides a number of targeted actions to assist with adaptation. These include the development of programmes to assist farmers and foresters in dealing with threats from changing or increasing pests and diseases, in planning and managing extreme weather events and their consequences such as land slip, and in taking advantage of the opportunities provided by climate change through advice on changing crops.

2.6 A shift in approach - delivering multiple benefits

Although our land area is fixed, that does not mean the level of benefits it delivers is fixed. Many land managers are already good at delivering multiple economic, environmental and social benefits from their land. But others are not taking the opportunities to broaden their focus and benefit accordingly.

Through understanding, innovation and appropriate support, we can better exploit the land's capacity - in sustainable ways. For example, woodland on farms can provide livestock shelter, but also provide wider benefits such as wildlife habitats, recreation opportunities and carbon retention. Crofting combines agricultural production with environmental stewardship and helps to maintain community cohesion in more remote areas. Sometimes the land manager sees little of the benefit they provide - for example where hill and mountain ecosystems moderate the water cycle to the benefit of people in lowland areas. We need to be smarter about how we encourage land managers to deliver these benefits.

The Scottish Government can make direct decisions only for the land for which it is responsible. The great majority of Scottish land is in private ownership; the Government's role is to exert positive influence upon the management of land to deliver wider public benefit. We will work in partnership with land managers to enable them to deliver the produce, the goods and the services that the country needs. Correspondingly, we will continue to develop the policy framework to facilitate multiple uses of land.

2.7 Proposals

Proposal 3

Align land-use regulations and incentives with Land Use Strategy Objectives. Ongoing.

As we build on current policies to influence and support land-based businesses, such as those referenced above, we will ensure that regulation places as light a burden on businesses as is consistent with achieving its purpose, and that incentives are as efficient and cost-effective as possible. We will also keep policies under regular review to maintain a governance framework that is suitable, stable and clear.

Proposal 4

Further encourage land-based businesses to take actions that reduce land-based greenhouse gas emissions and that enable adaptation to climate change threats and opportunities. Ongoing.

To achieve our challenging climate change targets, including to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent by 2020, all sectors must play their part. Our key policies for reducing emissions are planting additional woodland to sequester carbon and measures under the Farming For a Better Climate initiative. Low Carbon Scotland: Meeting the Emissions Reduction Targets 2010-2022 provides further details, and our challenge is to work with land-based businesses to ensure adoption of these measures. The Climate Change Adaptation Framework and its Sector Action Plans also set out ways to adapt to climate change impacts.

Proposal 5

Use the Land Use Strategy Objectives to influence negotiations on CAP reform. From 2011 onwards, timing dependent on EU processes.

The approaching revision of the EU Common Agricultural Policy ( CAP), and correspondingly of the next SRDP, provides an opportunity to build the Strategy's Objectives and the Principles for Sustainable Land Use into the next round of incentive schemes for land managers.

Proposal 6

Use demonstration projects to determine the best means by which land use and land management practice can contribute to climate change objectives. Ongoing.

These can include building on existing initiatives such as the livestock and woodland focus farms and other cross-sector collaborations that both showcase improved approaches and provide learning through monitoring these.

Proposal 7

Identify more closely which types of land are best for tree planting in the context of other land-based objectives, and promote good practice and local processes in relation to tree planting so as to secure multiple benefits. Further development of partnership approach through Forestry and Woodland Strategies, 2011 onwards.

We need to continue to demonstrate to land managers how they can best contribute to climate change targets. One important way is to plant trees, and we need to reassure stakeholders and land managers that our afforestation targets can be achieved while respecting the other requirements that we have for our land. We will look to use and develop existing delivery mechanisms such as Forestry and Woodland Strategies and to seek willing partners to work out local responses.


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