Land rights and responsibilities statement: consultation analysis

Analysis of responses to the land rights and responsibilities statement consultation, which closed on 10 March 2017.

11. Views on Principle 6 of the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement

Principle 6

There should be wide community engagement in decisions about land.

Question 9: Do you agree with Principle 6 of the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement? Please provide comments.

11.1 50 (81%) respondents answered the first part of Question 9. Of these, 40 agreed with Principle 5 of the Statement. Table 11.1 summarises views by category of respondent.

Table 11.1 Views on Principle 6 by category of respondent

Category Agree Disagree No. of respondents providing a view
National NGOs 10 4 14
Private Sector and Professional Bodies 5 1 6
Community Organisations and their Representative Bodies 5 0 5
Government and NDPBs 1 0 1
Academic 1 0 1
Total Organisations 22 5 27
Total Individuals 18 5 23
Grand total 40 10 50

11.2 Most of the individuals and organisations who provided a view agreed with Principle 6. Amongst the organisations, there was less of a consensus amongst the National NGOs, with four of the 14 who responded disagreeing with the Principle.

11.3 40 respondents provided further relevant commentary in response to Question 9, and their views are summarised below.

General views in support of Principle 6

11.4 Several respondents, from a range of sectors, expressed strong support for Principle 6. It was welcomed as an approach to aid better decision-making, enabling transparency in decision-making, and supporting a shift in focus towards the public interest and the common good. Described as part of a pro-active planning system, wide community engagement in decisions about land was perceived as underpinning collaborative relationships between landowners, managers, users and communities.

11.5 An NDPB suggested that the Principle could directly benefit bio-diversity by promoting wider connections with nature and the ownership of the actions needed to address bio-diversity loss.

Views on possible additions to Principle 6

11.6 A few respondents considered that “community” should encompass communities of interest, both wider (e.g. National Farmers’ Union Scotland) and more concentrated (e.g. church congregation), in addition to the local geographical community.

11.7 One National NGO suggested that the description of the Principle should make clear reference to a human rights-based approach and Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights.

11.8 Another National NGO recommended that the Land Use Strategy be referenced in view of the role of regional partnerships in decision-making on land.

11.9 An individual called for decisions on agricultural management to be explicitly cited under the Principle.

Views on realising Principle 6

11.10 A recurring view was that for the Principle to be effective and helpful, community engagement should not create undue delay or complexities in decision-making.

11.11 Another common concern was that the community should be fairly represented, and not simply by those whose voices are loudest. A private company suggested that community representatives should be democratically elected to take part in engagement. A National NGO suggested that strategies for conflict resolution, including mediation, should be a core part of an effective engagement strategy.

11.12 A private company considered it important that all parties should be clear on the purpose of any community engagement in terms of the scope of decisions which can be influenced, in order to make it meaningful and manage expectations.

11.13 A National NGO called for equal status for communities in planning decisions and for the Scottish Government to work out a proportionate and tractable approach to realising the ambition of community consultation as set out in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016.

11.14 Another National NGO cautioned that community engagement should not detract from the overall key aims and work of bodies such as those with charitable objectives.

Views on the limitations of Principle 6

11.15 Those who opposed this Principle, and some of those who supported it, identified potential limitations and challenges to wide community engagement in decisions about land.

11.16 A recurring view was that community engagement should not be a blanket requirement in every decision about land, but should be utilised only in certain circumstances, such as a material change to land use. If applied to day-to-day, routine farming activities, for example, respondents considered that Principle 6 would be impractical.

11.17 A few respondents suggested that the aspiration of the Principle was admirable, but in reality landowners should be able to make their own decisions on land issues where there are factors such as economic climate and market opportunities to consider.

11.18 Some respondents considered that Principle 6 will result in delays in planning, for example, where community groups conflict with each other.

11.19 One National NGO did not consider the wording of the Principle to reflect the Scottish Government’s position on community engagement and called for amendments to align with what will be contained in the forthcoming Community Engagement Guidance. Another National NGO suggested changing the wording of the heading to, “There should be thorough and effective community engagement in decisions about land” in order to counteract community engagement being interpreted differently to suit the needs of those undertaking the engagement.


Email: Chris Bierley,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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