Regional Land Use Partnerships: phase 1 process evaluation - final report

The Regional Land Use Partnerships (RLUPs) evaluation report considers the lessons learned from the Year 1 (2021 to 2022) pilot process. The report was completed by SAC Consulting and outlines key early findings from RLUP pilot establishment.

Appendix C: Additional lessons learned

While the body of this report is focused on capturing the experience of pilots in hindsight, certain forward-looking lessons emerged. These are included here as they represent key institutional knowledge and are the products of the collective efforts of these pilots.

Table C1: Barriers and enablers to the types of stakeholder engagement relevant to land use decision-making. These were collected throughout interview discussions on this theme and represent a key opportunity for knowledge sharing between pilots, hopefully spurred by reporting them in this evaluation. Italicised text denotes interview quotes.


Relevant stakeholders not engaged because…

…they have not been reached by existing methods

…they feel their input will not have impact I have seen so many times that something comes out from government and, as far as the locals, crofters and people around that are the land users, on a local level think, ‘Oh, well, it’s all sewn up. It’s all been done.’ […] So, they don’t engage with it.

…they lack confidence to engage with government / decision makers People like that don’t have that platform usually. They are not regular public speakers so they don’t want to stand up in front of Major Scott or, Scottish Woodland Trust or whoever, because they don’t have the scientific backing, but they actually have the experience of living and working every day.

…they feel they have input already (stakeholder fatigue) Our landowners are spread quite thinly in the various meetings that we have because we want them to be so involved. And, of course, we are a planning authority, so we have many consultations from that front as well.

…they are sceptical of impact, lack of funding… It's very difficult to get people to come along to meetings when there might not be any financial gain. And I'm not talking about just physically attending the meetings but it's the dreaded, “What's in it for me?”

…or government conviction There will come a point that they will question it if the political will, ergo the investment that is needed to match our ambition, is seen as a weakening or a weaker point


Key pilot innovations and experience

Tenacity is key, renewed engagement There are more hard-to-reach groups that we’ve got to try and bring to the table. […] It’s not just the one approach and, “Well they didn’t respond and therefore they’re not coming,” we’ve got to keep going at it

Treat all stakeholders equitably, even if some have more interest or influence Everybody is, is given the information at the same time […] From day one, the biggest landowner and the smallest landowner, are all treated equitably […] that’s been really important throughout, that everybody has the same say and the same sort of weight.

Communications, control the message It’s about just making sure we’ve got the message right because […] any negativity, it just washes through you, it really does. And it can delay things […] if you’re trying to actually do something and you’ve got this sort of barrage of abuse or nay-sayers coming at you from a perspective of not actually having the full information

Create safe spaces to channel local ideas and needs up the chain to national representatives If somebody has less experience they might be matched up with somebody who perhaps does have a bit more experience. So, all the time, we’re doing that capacity building and trying to make sure we are equipping and supporting people to have that voice and to feel confident in that position and know that their value is absolutely intrinsic to this going forward.

Do engagement in-person Use people. As simple as that. You get much better engagement […] by actually employing local people, young, local people to go out and talk, in the middle of a pandemic to their community, was just gold.

SG / MSPs to provide clarity (see Pilot Process) Our biggest challenge is a degree of cynicism from the elected members in terms of where this is going, particularly the resources entailed er to deliver it in reality on the ground.

There needs to be a solidity or a weight behind the RLUPs to enable us to have the credibility and the conversations we wish to have with the partners at a strategic level.

Future of RLUPs

Looking beyond these early benefits delivered by the pilots, and even beyond the many outcomes operational RLUPs are hoped to achieve, what might the process of rolling RLUPs out across the rest of Scotland look like in practice? What other lessons have been learned around establishing an RLUP in a new place?

One of the current pilots provides a suitable case study to answer these questions. This pilot has initially reduced its boundary to a more manageable size. The SLC advice anticipated the need to do this for some regions. While an intermediate scale (between national and local) has been shown to be useful, there are shifting balances of advantages and drawbacks to zooming in and out, increasing and decreasing scales of working. In the case of this pilot, this more geographically-targeted boundary has allowed them to progress further against Year 1 objectives (for example, engage more of their stakeholders) than if they had to try to cover their entire region. Their approach could then be transposed into surrounding areas. There is a growing body of literature around regional and landscape scale approaches, within which the drawing of (fuzzy) boundaries is a major theme. RLUPs should continue to be flexible around their scales of operation. It is likely that an optimal size will emerge, in which stakeholders’ local issues are more alike to each other than to those further afield and the impact of cross-cutting solutions is optimised.

Because this pilot narrowed their geography, they had some thoughts about how to expand back out and roll other regions into an RLUP. A key value added by this pilot process is understanding how to create a functioning partnership out of what already exists:

“What are the founding principles of this RLUP? […] Which will potentially surpass and go on to live in the existence and work beyond whatever RLUP gets called in the future. I think that’s very important and it’s that accessibility of language and the tangibility of that on the ground, that’s the most important part of this. So I’m hoping that we are working towards these sorts of founding principles which then are also useful to others going forward, but, again, it’s about what’s appropriate to those places.”

One of these founding principles and a way to ensure the longevity of RLUP effects is to embed the institutional knowledge required to deliver an RLUP through communities:

“If there’s an opportunity where capacity can be channelled through the community organisations, there’s a win-win there […] because it’s the people within that that are the translators and the people who will then move forward with the opportunities there.”



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