Land use - getting the best from our land: strategy 2021 to 2026

Scotland's Third Land Use Strategy sets out our vision, objectives and policies to achieve sustainable land use. The strategy covers the next five years and aims to provide a more holistic understanding of our land, the demands we place upon it and the benefits we get from our land.

Ministerial Foreword

Ten years on from the publication of Scotland's first Land Use Strategy, considerations as to how we own, use and manage our land have never been as urgent and relevant as they are now.

Much has happened since the publication of the last Land Use Strategy in 2016, including of course the current COVID-19 pandemic that is impacting on our lives in so many ways. But the twin global climate and biodiversity crises are as pressing as ever, and the Scottish Government remains determined and committed to playing its full part in combatting these issues.

That is why the focus of our recovery from COVID-19 is a 'green' one. One that seizes on the opportunities for creating sustainable jobs, promotes nature-based solutions and a circular economy. It encourages an increase in green finance, creates opportunities to attract global investment into Scotland as well as innovation and learning. It has a place-based focus and puts the people of Scotland at the heart of what we do.

The Scottish economy has much to gain in leading the transition to a low carbon society, and our land will play a key role in this. Our land can help support a low carbon economy that drives the development of new industries, services, skilled jobs, alongside new export and investment opportunities. It is imperative that the green recovery is part of a just transition to net-zero, a transition that leaves no one behind. That is why as a government we are investing £100 million to help businesses create new, green jobs via the Green Jobs Fund which includes:

  • £50 million to support our enterprise agencies to help businesses which provide sustainable and/or low carbon products and services to develop, grow and create jobs; and
  • £50 million to support businesses and supply chains across sectors to take advantage of public and private investment in low carbon infrastructure.

We are committed to a further £60 million to support the Youth Guarantee, including increased opportunities for 'green' apprenticeships across public sector bodies and in addition £25 million to the National Transition Training Fund, including a focus on provision of green skills.

We are investing an additional £500 million in our natural economy, including £150 million for woodland creation and £250 million for peatland restoration. We are launching a £180 million Emerging Energy Technologies Fund. We are investing £500 million in active travel, £275 million to support community-led regeneration and town-centre revitalisation and £50 million to create Active Freeways, providing a sustainable link between our towns, cities and some of our most beloved national landmarks.

The evidence that human activity has been a major driver of our changing climate over the past century is overwhelming. In 2019 we saw a wave of public activity demanding that governments take more action to tackle climate change, with young people in particular standing up and challenging us all to do better. Here in Scotland the First Minister recognised the global climate emergency in April 2019.

We have already made good progress in reducing our emissions compared to the 1990 baseline year, but we recognise that much more work remains to be done. That is why Scotland has introduced one of the most stringent statutory frameworks for climate change action in the world. In order to set us on the pathway to achieving our highly ambitious targets, the Scottish Government published an update to our 2018 Climate Change Plan in December 2020. This Climate Change Plan update sets out bold actions, which together chart our journey to our new emissions reduction targets out to 2032.

Reducing emissions to net-zero is vital to tackling climate change, but we must also prepare ourselves to deal with the climate impacts which are already affecting us and are locked in to the future. Our Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (SCCAP) 2019-2024 and the actions that it brings forward are just as important as our mitigation efforts. The Adaptation Programme sets out our policies and proposals to increase the capacity of Scotland's people, communities, and landscape to adapt to climate change.

2019 also saw the publication of the biggest ever health check of the state of global nature by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), followed closely by the State of Nature for Scotland report. Both provided stark evidence of the crisis in our natural world. The health of the planet's ecosystems, on which we and all other species depend, is deteriorating faster than at any time in human history, and there are an unprecedented number of species at risk of extinction.

It is clear that the climate and nature crises are intrinsically linked. Climate change is a key driver of biodiversity loss. Conversely, healthy natural habitats play a vital role in removing carbon from the atmosphere. Both crises arise from stretching the Earth's systems beyond their sustainable limits, as is set out very clearly in the recent Dasgupta review on the economics of biodiversity published in February 2021.

That is why in February 2020, we published the vision and outcomes of Scotland's new Environment Strategy, which creates an overarching framework for our strategies and plans concerning the environment and climate change. Its 'One Earth. One home. One shared future' vision describes our long-term ambitions for Scotland's natural environment and our role in tackling the global climate change and nature crises. It also describes the wider benefits that restoring nature and tackling climate change will create for the wellbeing of people and communities across Scotland, our economy and our global citizenship.

Scotland's land is a precious resource and fundamental to our economy, our environment and our wellbeing as a nation. The way it is owned and used are inextricably linked. It is vital that when we consider our land, we think not just about how it is used, but also about who benefits from its use. That is why we have an ongoing and unwavering commitment to land reform, and our Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement should be at the heart of land use decision making.

Our land can provide the vital platform to help us realise our many ambitions. In this, our third Land Use Strategy, we provide an overview of Scottish Government actions that are currently being taken and look to set out the kind of changes that will be required to achieve sustainable land use. If we are to leave a legacy of sustainability for future generations these changes must engage beyond the land itself to all of us that call Scotland home.

Roseanna Cunningham
Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform



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