Scotland's third Land Use Strategy: consultation

We are consulting on our third Land Use Strategy which will be published in March 2021. This sets out our vision for achieving sustainable land use in Scotland, the objectives and the policies and actions that will help deliver it.


What is the Land Use Strategy?

The Land Use Strategy is a strategic document that sets out our vision for sustainable land use in Scotland, and the objectives, policies and actions that will help deliver it. The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 requires Scottish Ministers by law to produce a Land Use Strategy every five years. The first Strategy was published in 2011, the second in 2016, and the third one is now due in March 2021.

Why is it important?

The way we use and manage our land provides the foundation to many aspects of our lives here in Scotland. Alongside our water, seas and air it provides the natural capital which underpins our economy. This has been the case throughout our history and will continue to be the case in our future. Our land supports rural communities and economies; food production to feed the nation; diverse habitats and abundant biodiversity; forests and woodlands; the generation of electricity to warm our homes and power our businesses; and it provides inspiring landscapes and leisure space for us all.

Scotland’s land assets have been highlighted by the government’s independent advisers on Climate Change, the UK Committee on Climate Change. In their 2019 report they have made it clear that one of the main reasons Scotland can achieve a 2045 net-zero target is because of “the excellent opportunities to remove CO₂ from the atmosphere through afforestation and carbon capture and storage in Scotland”.

If we are to achieve the sustainable future that we aspire to, how we choose to use our land in response to the twin threats of the climate emergency and biodiversity decline will be crucial. This Land Use Strategy will set out our ambition and vision, while recognising that these are decisions for us all and that government cannot do this alone. The Strategy will also set out examples of how we can work with, support and encourage our land-based sectors throughout our Green Recovery from the global COVID-19 pandemic as we look to make a just transition to a sustainable future.

What’s new?

There have been two Land Use Strategies since the Climate Change Act came into force in 2009. The first one, covering 2011 to 2016, brought in a new framework for land use which introduced our vision for sustainable land use, objectives, and a set of principles to guide future decision-making around land use.

The second Land Use Strategy, published in 2016, maintained this framework and in addition set out 9 policies and 5 proposals across areas such as agriculture, forestry, natural capital and land reform. The second Strategy was swiftly followed by the Land Rights and Responsibility Statement. This landmark document sets out the key principles that underpin the Scottish Government's vision for a stronger relationship between the people of Scotland and our land.

The third Land Use Strategy is due for publication in March 2021, and is the topic of this consultation. While the overarching purpose of the Strategy will remain the same - demonstrating our ambition for sustainable land use - the new Land Use Strategy will be different from previous ones in two key ways.

First, the layout and language of the new Strategy has been redesigned to make it more accessible to everyone, beyond those with a specific interest in land use. Our land has such an important role to play in Scotland’s sustainable future both environmentally and economically that it is vital we engage as widely as possible so that - whether you own, work, use or simply appreciate Scotland’s land - we all understand its importance and what we need it to deliver.

Second, and unlike the previous two Strategies, the third Strategy will not contain new policy proposals developed specifically for its publication. Instead it brings together for the first time key strands of Scottish Government policy that affect land use, and sets out how these various policy areas fit together on the ground. Setting out this strategic picture highlights how crucial land and land use is to our lives, and how we will need to make changes to secure a sustainable future.

A two-phased approach

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic rightly continues to be the Government’s priority: it also brings additional uncertainty to the future. Scottish Ministers have therefore chosen to take a two stage approach to the delivery of the Strategy. Stage one, including this consultation, will result in an overarching strategic document being laid in the Scottish Parliament next March. Stage two will see the development and consultation of a more detailed delivery plan to be published in the next Parliamentary session. This plan will contain further information on the policies and action that the Scottish Government is taking to deliver on our sustainable land use objectives.

Aligning with ongoing policy development

There is a wealth of policy being developed at the same time as the new Land Use Strategy. Any new land use related policy brought forward prior to the publication of this Strategy (for example through the updated Climate Change Plan, due for publication late in 2020) will be reflected in the final Strategy.

Regional Land Use Partnerships (RLUPs)

The Scottish Land Commission has published its advice to the Scottish Government on the establishment of Regional Land Use Partnerships. We are now working to develop pilot areas and will shortly announce where these areas are. It is imperative that each pilot is structured in a way that balances the interests of national and local government, land based sectors and local communities. The purpose of RLUPs will be to lead, at a landscape level, on identifying opportunities for land use change where appropriate, and to ensure that all land use and management activities are conducted in a way that supports meeting climate change objectives.

What to expect in the next three sections

In each of the sections below, we have set out the key elements that make up the draft Strategy, alongside questions where your responses will help shape our approach to the final document. Some of these relate to elements of previous Land Use Strategies, asking if they require updating, while others introduce a new approach to make the Strategy more accessible to those with a wider general interest in land. The final section is dedicated to questions around equality and inclusivity, and we encourage anyone who has relevant information to contribute to our call for evidence.



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