Background to the Review of Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement
The passage of the Land Reform (Scotland) 2016 Act (the 2016 Act) was instrumental in the ongoing development of land reform in Scotland. Part 1 of the 2016 Act placed a requirement on Scottish Ministers to publish a statement on land rights and responsibilities. The 2016 Act includes seven specific aspects that Ministers must consider when developing the statement, including respecting human rights, supporting and facilitating community empowerment and furthering sustainable development in relation to land.
On 28 September 2017, the Scottish Government published the Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement (the first Statement), the first of its kind anywhere in the world.
The first Statement took a human rights approach and sets out a vision of a strong and dynamic relationship between Scotland's land and its people. In this vision all land contributes to a modern and successful country, and land rights and responsibilities are recognised and fulfilled. It was founded on six principles that should underpin every decision about land.
The first Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement was supported by Advisory Notes and case studies for each principle. These Advisory Notes and case studies provided further background and explanation of how the principles can apply in practice and how they link to other policies. The Scottish Land Commission (SLC) has also developed a series of protocols to help people to understand and apply the principles.
Legislative basis for review and report
Section 2(4) of the 2016 Act places a statutory obligation upon Scottish Ministers to review the first Statement before the end of the period of 5 years beginning with the day on which the Scottish Ministers published the statement. The first Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement was published on 28 September 2017, and the first review must therefore be completed by 27 September 2022. In undertaking this review, section 2(5) requires Scottish Ministers to consult such persons as they consider appropriate.
Following this review, section 2(6) sets out the steps that Scottish Ministers must take if they consider that it is not appropriate to prepare a revised statement, whilst section 2(7) sets out the steps that must be taken if they consider that it is appropriate to prepare a revised statement.
Having undertaken this review, Scottish Ministers consider that it is appropriate to prepare a revised statement, and are therefore required to comply with section 2(7), which sets out that they must publish the revised statement and lay it before the Scottish Parliament, along with a report setting out the consultation process undertaken and the reasons why they consider that it is appropriate to prepare a revised statement.
This report is laid before Parliament under section 2(7)(b) of the 2016 Act, alongside a copy of the revised Statement, and the accompanying revised Advisory Notes.
Consultation process and key findings
In order to meet the requirements placed on them by the 2016 Act, Scottish Ministers published a written consultation on the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement on 5 November 2021 with views invited by 28 January 2022. In total 55 responses were received: 26 responses from organisations and 29 from individual members of the public.
The consultation asked about the vision and principles contained within the first Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement, as well as asking a number of other questions relating to impact, awareness and promotion.
The consultation paper proposed a change to the vision in the first Statement to ensure that it captures the current context, by adding in references to issues that have emerged since it was published in 2017 – a just transition to net zero, and natural capital.
The proposed revised vision consulted on is as follows:
"A Scotland with a strong and dynamic relationship between its land and people, where all land contributes to a modern and successful country and supports a just transition to net zero, and where rights and responsibilities in relation to land and natural capital are fully recognised and fulfilled."
A majority of respondents felt that the revised vision reflects the outcomes that we need to achieve, or reflects them to some extent.
The consultation asked respondents whether the six principles set out in the first Statement (Annex A) were still relevant. A clear majority agreed that each principle is still relevant. Support ranged from 94% of those answering the question agreeing that Principle 5 in the first Statement is still relevant, to 80% agreeing that Principle 3 in the first Statement is still relevant.
The professional and independent analysis of the consultation responses was carried out by Craigforth and the analysis report was published on 24 May 2022.
Annex A contains the Vision and Principles from the first Statement. Annex B contains the Vision and Principles that were consulted on. Annex C contains the revised Vison and Principles which form the new 2022 Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement following this review.
Decision to prepare a revised Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement
The consultation document set out the changes in Scotland and around the world since the preparation and publication of the first Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement in 2017. This new context includes the current cost crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant economic and social impacts, in addition to the impacts of EU exit. There has also been increasing worldwide focus on the twin climate and nature crises and the urgency of the transition to a net-zero economy. The role of Scotland's natural capital has become increasingly prominent as its importance in achieving a just transition to net zero has become more widely recognised. In light of this new context, and the consultation responses, Scottish Ministers consider that it is appropriate to prepare a revised Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement, to ensure it can continue to support a healthy relationship between the land and people of Scotland.
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