Review of the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement: analysis of consultation responses

A report on the analysis of the responses to the consultation on the Review of the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement.

Assessing impact

The final section of the consultation covered the impact of policy, and encouraged anyone with relevant information to contribute their ideas.

Question 14 – Are you aware of any examples of how the proposals in this consultation might impact, positively or negatively, on island communities in a way that is different from the impact on mainland areas?

Twenty one respondents commented at Question 14, although some simply noted that they were not aware of any examples of how the proposals might impact on island communities. As at the other questions relating to addressing impact, some of the other comments reiterated points made at previous questions.

Comments relating directly to island communities included that there can be particular problems in accessing land, with the challenges seen on the mainland intensified on islands due to land constraints, including the exaggerated effect of concentrated land ownership in an island situation. It was reported that people are forced to leave as a consequence of there not being enough available land. A connected comment was that any increase in community owned land would deliver benefits in terms of population retention and an increase in the number of young people staying or returning.

Given the challenges, it was suggested that island communities should be a priority for both the Statement and the SLC's Good Practice Programme. Particular issues or challenges that respondents wished to see the Statement acknowledge or address included that:

  • The Gaelic language is an especially intrinsic part of land rights and responsibilities in Western Isles communities and failure to consider this would produce a negative impact in such island communities. The 'Government or NDPB' respondent highlighting this issue noted that around 80% of land in the Western Isles is in community ownership and the area is the heartland of Gaelic in Scotland.
  • There may be a clearer geographically defined 'community' on an island compared to the mainland, but it should not be assumed that any community is a homogenous group who all have the same views and seek the same outcomes.

Question 15 – Are you aware of any examples of particular current or future impacts, positive or negative, on young people, (children, pupils, and young adults up to the age of 26) of any aspect of the proposals in this consultation?

Twenty-eight respondents commented at Question 15, with some respondents noting that they were not aware of any examples of how the proposals may impact on young people.

Other general comments including that, if universally adopted, the Statement should be positive for young people.

Links were made to providing more opportunities for young people, including training and job opportunities. Further comments included that:

  • Young people need better access to land in terms of work opportunities and ability to develop entrepreneurial land-based enterprises.
  • The onshore wind sector has the potential to have a negative impact upon the future of young people. There was reference to the impact on the tourism industry and it was suggested that there are few jobs created by the wind farms to offset any tourism job losses.

Other comments often focused on access to land and housing and included that young people may wish to settle in or return to rural or island communities but cannot because of the market pricing of land and the houses. There was particular reference to the lack of entry opportunities for small farms and crofts and a concern that community ownership will not address these challenges. In relation to crofting, further comments included that:

  • Respondents considered that The Crofting Commission has failed to address the demand for crofts.
  • In the crofting counties, being able to live on their land in their communities is becoming out of reach of young people, undermining their Gaelic cultural inheritance and indigenous skills of land custodianship.

Respondents also addressed the importance of engaging young people in relation to land issues, and the Statement in particular. It was suggested that giving children and young people a chance to influence decisions about land is likely to have positive impacts in terms of wellbeing, participation, and education. It was also seen as important that all young people learn that land ownership carries social responsibilities.

Question 16 – Are you aware of any examples of how the proposals in this consultation may impact, either positively or negatively, on those with protected characteristics (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation)?

Nineteen respondents commented at Question 16, with many simply noting that they were not aware of any examples of how the proposals may impact on those with protected characteristics.

Reflecting comments made in relation to Principle 2, there was a call for more to be done to recognise the inequalities that act as barriers to more diverse forms of land ownership. It was suggested that this will require positive, purposive action, but that the Statement's principles are too passive to support this.

Other comments included:

  • It will be important to look at access to land close to communities where people with protected characteristics live, with examples given including urban parks, riverside walks, green space and community woodlands.
  • The indigenous nature of Gaelic in the islands should be considered in relation to custodianship of the land.

Question 17 – Are you aware of any examples of potential impacts, either positive or negative, that you consider that any of the proposals in this consultation may have on the environment?

Twenty-eight respondents commented at Question 17, with some noting that they were not aware of any examples of potential impacts on the environment.

Other comments included that any decisions relating to land use will ultimately impact the environment and that it is incumbent on all involved to ensure any revisions to the Statement have a positive impact.

In terms of positive impacts that the Statement could or should have, comments included that the proposals could have a positive impact by ensuring decisions consider nature-based solutions and natural capital. It was also suggested that a greater emphasis on nature-based solutions and an ecosystems approach would result in enhanced positive impacts. As at earlier questions, some respondents called for biodiversity to be better represented in the vision and principles. Certain risks, or the potential for negative impacts, were also identified. These included:

  • Reflecting the comments on emphasis above, that the proposals will underachieve in terms of the potential for land to contribute to climate mitigation. It was suggested that the proposals should be revised to be more robust and climate relevant.
  • If the Statement leads to disputes that delay or deter positive investment to support the environment. For example, if it used to oppose major renewable energy schemes.
  • Any fragmentation of landownership may contradict environmental ambitions either because there is lack of local agreement and/or because the scale required to deliver benefit, for example in wildlife, biodiversity and flood mitigation, cannot be achieved.
  • Claims from private landowners that rewilding offers a simple solution to a complicated problem.

Respondents also identified a number of specific areas of policy or practice that could have an impact on the environment and which they wanted to see taken into consideration. These included:

  • Use of brownfield sites.
  • The loss of greenspace to housing development.
  • Support for peatland restoration.
  • Agroforestry, including silvopastoralism.[5] It was suggested that this offers the best way to increase biodiversity.
  • The impact of changing the use of Scottish land on land use elsewhere, for example if we then need to import agricultural or forestry products from other places.

Question 18 – Are you aware of any examples of how the proposals in this consultation might impact, positively or negatively, on groups or areas at socioeconomic disadvantage?

Twenty-four respondents commented at Question 18, with some respondents simply noting that they were not aware of any examples of how the proposals might impact on groups or areas at socioeconomic disadvantage.

Specific comments including that a more diverse pattern of land ownership would positively impact remote rural communities at socioeconomic disadvantage.

Others re-emphasised points made at Questions 14 and 15 around availability and affordability of land, and the impact that lack of access to land can have on local communities. There was a concern that the principles do nothing to recognise, reflect, or combat the inequalities – systemic and otherwise – that act as a barrier to fairer or more plural patterns of landownership. A connected observation was while the proposals aspire to a fairer Scotland, it is not clear how this can be achieved with land and property being subject to free-market principles and practices.

A different perspective was that there is a risk that some individuals or groups might consider the Statement to be in favour of no change to land in their respective areas. The concern was that seeking to preserve land without any prospect of change will deter investment and in turn will impact on communities that do not see the delivery of homes or employment opportunities.

Other comments focused on urban areas and included that:

  • There must be a focus on urban green spaces and who owns them.
  • If 'productive reuse of land' is included in the Statement this may impact positively on disadvantaged communities in post-industrial areas.

Question 19 – Are you aware of any potential costs and burdens that you think may arise as a result of the proposals within this consultation?

Twenty respondents commented at Question 19, with some simply noting that they were not aware of any potential costs or burdens.

One perspective was that the proposals are unlikely to result in additional burdens as the Statement is voluntary. Respondents did, however, identify some areas in which costs could be incurred, including in relation to:

  • Promotion of, and communication about, the Statement.
  • Some aspects of implementation. For example, it was suggested that there may need to be assistance to get projects up and running, especially in areas of disadvantage.
  • Reporting on implementation. It was also noted that any activity to create a baseline against which progress can be measured – such as mapping of ownership, occupancy and use - will need to be resourced.

There was also a concern that, although not statutory, the Statement could still be used to oppose or object to planning applications or proposed uses of land.

In terms of who would or might incur costs, comments included that:

  • For landowners there is a cost in reporting, both in time and resources. There was also reference to the staff time required to carry out consultation with local communities.
  • Implementation costs may be greater for community landowners and public bodies, if these types of landowner make greater efforts to work to the principles than private landowners or businesses.

In terms of any burden, it was suggested that one might fall on the SLC should they be appointed to visit landowners who do not appear to be engaging with the Statement. It was, however, noted that engaging with landowners should already be a large part of the role of SLC and that any burden should not necessarily be seen as additional.

Question 20 – Are you aware of any impacts, positive or negative, of the proposals in this consultation on data protection or privacy?

Sixteen respondents commented at Question 20, with most simply stating that they were not aware of any impacts on data protection or privacy.

Points raised in relation to privacy included that the potential for concern will depend on the extent and nature of any further measures to increase the transparency of land ownership or use.

It was suggested, however, that while there will be a need to publish figures to demonstrate engagement with the Statement on a routine basis, there should be no data protection or privacy issues arising from this. A related view was that information should be publicly available as we all have a right to understand what landowners are doing with their land to support the just transition to net zero and to promote biodiversity. Specific suggestions were that:

  • Where public funding support is given, information should be available to the public and should be a condition of award.
  • There should be a requirement for transparency with respect to who beneficial owners are and whether their tax affairs are registered in Scotland or offshore.



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