Roseanna Cunningham, MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Environment,
Climate Change and Land Reform
Land is one of Scotland’s most fundamental assets. It is essential to achieving sustainable development, and key to many other important aspects of people’s lives, from housing to recreation, from agriculture to mitigating climate change. Land underpins communities’ social and cultural development, and is crucial in protecting and enhancing the environment. In a progressive and fair Scotland, communities must have a say in the important decisions about land that affect them.
Engagement helps ensure that the aspirations and concerns of communities across Scotland are rightly taken into account, enabling and empowering them to help shape decisions about land. It helps to create trust between local communities and those with control over land and demonstrates that land is being managed well.
I know that many people with control over land already engage regularly with local communities and have built positive, productive relationships with them. I want to build on this good practice, and I expect all those with control over land in Scotland to engage with local communities in an open and effective way. This guidance will support those with control over land to take a proactive approach to engaging with communities about decisions relating to land.
The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 recognises the importance of land to the realisation of a person’s human rights, and that is reflected in the principles of the Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement. The statement is the first such document to be published in the world, and we in Scotland can be justifiably proud of the approach we are taking to ensuring that human rights are a key part of decisions about land. Accordingly, this guidance takes a human rights based approach to engagement.
I welcome the Scottish Land Commission’s involvement in developing the guidance, and the key role it will play in supporting the use of the guidance in practice. The Commission will be crucial in the success of land reform, and I look to them to help ensure that this guidance becomes a central part of how decisions about land are made.
Scottish Ministers are required to lay a report before Parliament within three years of publishing this guidance, assessing its effectiveness and setting out any further steps which should be taken to improve its impact. The Commission will help to make this assessment, and over the next three years I expect to see sustained and significant progress towards making sure that community engagement about decisions relating to land becomes the norm.
I’m also pleased that many individuals and organisations took part in both formal and informal consultation about this guidance. That has been crucial in shaping the final version of the guidance, and I am encouraged by the positive and purposeful engagement that has taken place. I want to thank everyone who has contributed, and I look forward to seeing the results of the guidance in practice.