Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement 2022: advisory notes

Advisory notes to accompany Revised 2022 Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement, September 2022.

Part 3 - Advisory Notes and Case Studies


A Scotland with a strong and dynamic relationship between its land and people, where all land contributes to a modern, sustainable and successful country and supports a just transition to net zero, and where rights and responsibilities in relation to land and its natural capital are fully recognised and fulfilled.

The Vision and Principles are based on a human rights approach, recognising that the way land is owned and used contributes to the fulfilment of many human rights.

Scottish Ministers want to see a strong and dynamic relationship between the people of Scotland and its land which benefits everyone, and where land is a resource that can be used to support social progress and help communities and individuals to thrive. Scotland has a strong record of progressive land reform, but there is further progress to be made.

The core purpose of the Scottish Government is to improve the lives of the people of Scotland and we focus government and public services on the purpose and outcomes set out in the National Performance Framework (NPF), to create a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increased wellbeing, and sustainable and inclusive economic growth. The Scottish Government believes this will only be achieved by making the most of all the resources available in Scotland, including land. The desire for Scotland's economy to be more prosperous, productive and equitable sits at the heart of the Scottish Government's ambitions as set out in Scotland's National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) for a wellbeing economy and the community wealth building economic development model supports the achievement of these ambitions.

Community Wealth Building is a people-centred approach to local economic development which redirects wealth back into local communities and puts the control and benefits of assets and resources in the hands of local people. Community Wealth Building takes a whole place collaborative approach to local places and supports democratic and collective ownership of local economies. How we collectively own and use land is key to achieving this fundamental economic transformation, and a Community Wealth Building approach aligned with the principles of the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement offers a helpful framework for how to put this into practice.

Land has an important role to play in building a wellbeing economy that promotes inclusive economic growth, reduces inequality, supports climate action, and empowers people and communities to bring about positive changes. As we work towards a just transition to net zero and tackling our biodiversity and climate crises, we will see significant land use change. It is imperative that these changes are made in a careful and considered way, taking into account the impacts on our people and communities.

A just transition means reaching a nature-rich, net-zero future with a climate resilient economy in a way that is fair and tackles injustice and inequality. The process and the outcome should both be fair, considering the impact on people and the sharing of any benefits that arise. The ways we own, manage and invest in natural capital and carbon play an important role in this. Natural capital is defined by the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital as "the stocks of natural assets which include geology, soil, air, water and all living things". Land might be managed for natural capital to produce food, sequester carbon, reduce emissions or increase biodiversity, for example through planting trees or restoring peatland. Managing the living and non-living aspects of our land can help to deliver economic, social and environmental outcomes so responsible practice and alignment of local and national policies with the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement is vital to ensure a sustainable and fair future for everyone.

People in Scotland exercise a wide range of land rights and use land in many ways. These range from rights governing access to rights covering ownership, tenancy, and business and personal use of land.

With all rights come responsibilities. Many land rights and responsibilities are already defined in legislation and guidelines. For example, the rights and obligations connected with being a landlord of residential or farming property, and the rights and responsibilities of applicants, communities and local authorities involved in planning decisions.

Other responsibilities are voluntary and may be seen as ethical or moral obligations. For example, where people feel an obligation towards the care of the land and a sense of responsibility towards their neighbours. It is important that those exercising land rights recognise their responsibilities, both to the land and to others including to those who have rights in relation to the land.

Many day-to-day activities in relation to land are not regulated in detail, and it is for the persons involved to use their good judgement and appropriate communication with others who may be affected in taking decisions relating to their use of land. Consideration of the seven principles should help to inform an appropriate course of action.

A range of guidance exists to help individuals and businesses take decisions and encourage voluntary good practice in relation to land and buildings. The ongoing leadership shown by sector membership organisations in raising awareness and encouraging voluntary good practice in furthering the Statement is essential. The Scottish Land Commission has a set of protocols which explain how to put land rights and responsibilities into practice.

On-going, ambitious land reform will help to increase the contribution of Scotland's land to sustainable economic growth, which is at the heart of the Scottish Government's purpose. Land reform also has the potential to empower greater numbers of people and, over time, to change patterns of ownership in Scotland to ensure a greater diversity of ownership, greater diversity of investment and further sustainable development.

Today there is a heightened understanding that while historic reforms have been beneficial, Scotland as a modern nation needs the ability to frame the governance of its land for the 21st century, and to ensure the on-going consideration of how land and rights over land are owned, used and managed.

The principles within this statement are intended to be mutually supportive, and all principles should be read alongside each other. For example, all those who own and manage land are encouraged to practice high standards of land ownership and stewardship as outlined in Principle 4, and in doing so they are expected to collaborate, under Principle 7, with communities, other landowners, and public authorities. All landowners are valuable partners in promoting sustainable development and better land use, and are expected to support more diverse ownership and tenure (Principle 2).



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