Land reform in a Net Zero Nation: consultation paper

The next Land Reform Bill will make important changes to the framework of law and policy that govern the system of ownership, management and use of land in Scotland. This consultation sets out the Scottish Government's proposals for the Bill and seeks views on a range of land-related issues.

Part 6: Compulsory Land Management Plans

Land management plans

Irrespective of the scale of a landholding, there is currently no legal requirement on landowners to make available to the public information on their medium to long-term management plans for their land. Despite this, some large-scale landowners across all sectors do prepare and publish plans which set out the landowners intentions with regard to the use and management of their land, and how they will invest in its improvement.

To promote and facilitate this Good Practice, the Scottish Land Commission has produced templates for Land Management Plans. As well as giving information about who owns and manages the land, the template has sections that summarise the main objectives of land management alongside key activities and priorities. The template aims to help landowners and managers compile relevant information that can be made available online to the local community.

What we propose

Some landowners already proactively publish plans and strategy documents, however, this is not universal practice. We consider that it is a reasonable expectation that any large-scale landholding should prepare and publish a management plan. The purpose of the plan is to:

  • demonstrate how the owner will implement the principles set out in the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement (LRRS);
  • demonstrate how land will be used and managed so as to meet requirements (to be set out in LRRS codes/protocols) for sustainable management, contributing to net zero and nature restoration goals;
  • set out their plans for how they will engage with local communities in line with the Scottish Government's Guidance on Engaging Communities in Decisions Relating to Land;
  • offer the opportunity to owners to increase the transparency of their objectives and operations; and
  • set out how these connect with local priorities, opportunities, and public policy.

We propose that the plans should show how the management of the landholding contributes to relevant land use, economic and community development priorities and opportunities, as set out in community plans, regional land use strategies, and national policy.

Plans could potentially provide a means not only of demonstrating how the use and management of land will contribute to carbon emission reduction and/or nature restoration, but also a mechanism for monitoring this. Plans could be required to contain information on land to be used for purposes that would generate revenue from carbon offsetting/carbon credits.

We propose that the requirement to publish management plans should be enforced by way of a range of cross compliance mechanisms, such as being a pre-requisite to receive public funding for land based activity. Under this approach, landowners would have to demonstrate that they have an up to date Management Plan to be eligible for public funding. This proposal is considered in more detail in Part 8.

To avoid unnecessary duplication, we will explore the potential to consolidate any requirement for Management Plans introduced via this Bill, with any Plans that may be required for the purposes of securing grants and subsidies.

Why we are proposing this

We consider that the requirement for large-scale landholdings to make public their plans for the management of their land encourages transparency and a recognition that land needs to be managed for public interest, as well as private objectives. It will provide a basis for local community engagement and enable the public to understand how land is being used now and how it will be used in future. It will mitigate some of the risks associated with concentration of landownership/ ownership of land at scale. Plans would be high-level/strategic in nature, reviewed and updated periodically, for example every five years, or in the event of a significant change.

The publication of plans will provide an opportunity for landowners to set out their plans for investing in their land so that it contributes the most it can to public policy objectives, such as net zero, renewable energy, nature restoration, just transition and community benefit. Landowners will benefit from being able to demonstrate that they are responsible stewards of their lands.

One example of management plans for particularly large-scale land holdings in the public sector has been developed by Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS), who publish and consult on plans for their forests at national, regional and local levels. FLS has over 300 local Land Management Plans and regularly reviews and consults on these with communities and other stakeholders. Each local plan reflects the framework set out in Scotland's Forestry Strategy 2019 to 2029 and meets the requirements of the UK Woodland Assurance Standard, the independent certification standard for verifying sustainable woodland management in the UK.

FLS use their Strategy and local plans to keep the national forests and land as a whole under review, including identifying land and assets that are no longer delivering on strategic objectives. Before disposing of any assets, FLS notifies the communities and many have benefited from having access to this information to acquire land under FLS' Community Asset Transfer Scheme. FLS also have around 90 formal leases and agreements with communities, and many community activities are carried out under Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Relatively few communities take forward plans for large-scale forest land acquisition, but many benefit from having the opportunity to develop small-scale amenity use schemes such as forest trails, community hubs or small-scale rural housing developments.

We recognise that due to the public accountability required of it, and its diverse remit and activities, that FLS has access to significant resources to support these processes of planning and engagement. Not all landowners have access to resources on this scale and this would be taken into account in setting out what was required in terms of the level of detail the plans were required to contain, as well as requirements in relation to community engagement.


Q8. We propose that there should be a duty on large-scale landowners to publish Management Plans. Do you agree or disagree with this proposal?

Agree / Disagree / Don't know

Please give some reasons for your answer:

Q9. How frequently do you think Management Plans should be published?

Q10. Should Management Plans include information on:

  • Land Rights and Responsibility Statement compliance

Yes / No / Don't know

  • Community engagement Yes / No / Don't know
  • Emission reduction plans Yes / No / Don't know
  • Nature restoration Yes / No / Don't know
  • Revenue from carbon offsetting/carbon credits Yes / No / Don't know
  • Plans for developments/activities that will contribute to local and inclusive economic development or community wealth building

Yes / No / Don't know

Please provide some reasons for your answers and any additional suggestions:

Q11. Do you think the responsibility for enforcing compulsory land management plans should sit with:

  • the Scottish Government Yes / No / Don't know
  • a public body (such as the Scottish Land Commission)

Yes / No / Don't know

Please provide some reasons for your answers and any additional suggestions:

Q12. Do you think the proposal to make Management Plans a legal duty for large-scale landowners would benefit the local community?

Yes / No / Don't know

Please give some reasons for your answer:

Q13. Do you have any other comments on the proposal to make Management Plans a legal duty for large-scale landowners?



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