Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement 2022: advisory notes

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

Principle 2:

There should be a more diverse pattern of land ownership and tenure, with more opportunities for citizens to own, lease and have access to land.

Scotland's National Strategy for Economic Transformation sets out an ambition for a successful country with a strong economy that has secure and well-paid jobs, thriving businesses, and resilient supply chains supported by entrepreneurship and innovation. Being able to own, lease and use land and buildings for a variety of activities is a vital part of achieving this vision for a wellbeing economy. More inclusive and diverse ownership and management of land and buildings will enable more of the wealth generated by those assets to be retained locally, strengthening the local economy and creating more sustainable places.

The Scottish Land Commission has carried out research which shows that a concentration of social, economic, and decision-making power can significantly impact rural communities and be a barrier to sustainable development. A wide and diverse availability of land and buildings, along with a range of inclusive ownership and governance models, allows businesses, organisations, social enterprises, individuals, and communities, to pursue projects of all scales and purposes.

In our rural and island communities a varied mix of types of tenure can encourage activity and build resilience. From crofts, small landholdings and smallholdings to larger tenant and owner-occupier farms, as well as private, public and community owned estates, access to land can provide a range of benefits. Agricultural tenancies are an important part of this mix and there is a variety of options for short- and longer-term farm tenancies. In addition to croft tenancies and owner-occupied crofts, an individual can occupy land held under crofting tenure on a short-term lease or sublet.

Diverse ownership and use of land is also important in our towns and cities, with access to local services and greenspaces contributing to healthier and more liveable places and a better quality of life. The ambition for 20-minute neighbourhoods in Scotland, in both urban and rural areas, can be supported by more diverse patterns of ownership and tenure which can make it easier to provide services and infrastructure in the places where people live.

All those who own, use and manage land have the potential to proactively support their local areas by identifying where land and buildings could meet local needs and aspirations, including through engagement, co-production and democratic participation. Public bodies in particular play a key role in local economies, with substantial impact through spending, investment, employment, and use of land and buildings. When taking a community wealth building approach to local economic development, public bodies acting as anchor institutions play an important part in setting examples, influencing behaviour, fostering collaboration and partnership, and enabling good practice. The Scottish Land Commission have developed a guide to Community Wealth Building.

Diverse patterns of ownership and tenure also matter for our homes and communities. The Scottish Government's aim is for all people in Scotland to live in high-quality, sustainable and affordable homes that that meet their needs in the place they want to be. Through continued investment, including private investment, and taking a place-based approach, the Housing to 2040 Vision will help to increase the number of homes in Scotland and ensure the availability of a variety of tenure and ownership options which cater for the full range of people's needs.

Access to land and buildings helps ensure that our communities have adequate housing to meet their needs, supports local economic development, provides spaces for social and amenity activities, and gives people access to green spaces. Offering more people the opportunity to own and lease land can also contribute to a fairer Scotland and enables more people to enjoy land and the rights, opportunities and responsibilities that go with it. For land owners, diversifying land holdings can contribute to a more diversified asset base, generate funds to reinvest elsewhere, improve public profiles and relationships with the community, and provide opportunities for innovation and collaboration.

What we are doing

  • Housing to 2040, Scotland's first long term housing strategy was published in 2021. Its aims to deliver our ambition for everyone to have a safe, good quality and affordable home that meets their needs in the place they want to be. Work has also started on delivery of our new ambitious target of 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, of which at least 70% will be available for social rent and 10% will be in our remote, rural and island communities. This includes support of up to £30m for the continuation of the Rural and Island Housing Fund, providing an additional funding route for communities and organisations not able to access traditional affordable housing funding. Collectively this support will contribute about £18 billion in total investment and up to 15,000 jobs a year.
  • The Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993 grants crofters an absolute right to remove land from crofting tenure for the purposes of a croft house site and garden ground.
  • Crofting plays a vital role in maintaining the population in rural and island areas, including the retention of young people and families. The Croft House Grant provides grants towards the cost of new house builds and house improvements. Since 2007, the Croft House Grant has approved over £23m in funding, helping build and improve over 1,090 homes for crofters and their families in our rural and island crofting communities.
  • Crofting is fundamentally important to Scotland's rural and remote rural mainland and island communities. As crofting regulator, the Crofting Commission is allocated an annual budget by the Scottish Government in order to regulate and reorganise crofting, and protect crofting for future generations. The Crofting Commission's development work helps create opportunities for new entrants, and supports and encourages the active management of common grazings and more active use of crofts.
  • Crofting exists in areas where agricultural production and investment costs are traditionally high, and therefore there are a number of support mechanisms available to crofters.
    • The Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme provide grants to crofting agricultural businesses. Funding supports crofters in carrying out individual or collective investments that reduce productions costs, improve quality, preserve and improve the natural environment, and hygiene conditions and animal welfare standards.
    • The Crofting Cattle Improvement Scheme offers a subsidised rate for crofters to hire high-health status bulls.
    • The Highlands and Islands Veterinary Support Services Scheme provides crofters access to subsidised veterinary services.
    • The Scottish Government's Farm Advisory Service (FAS) supports crofters and farmers through the One-to-One and the One-to-Many services. The FAS aims to improve the environment, biodiversity, resilience and profitability of croft businesses. This is achieved through helping crofters work co-operatively to improve common grazings, supporting high nature value friendly crofting, providing clear and accessible information and guidance, and encouraging croft land and infrastructure development.
    • Support is also available to crofters through basic Pillar 1 type payments.
  • Since 2007, using EC funding, the Scottish Rural Development Programme's LEADER programme has supported over 2,200 initiatives across rural Scotland, including such diverse areas as food, tourism, transport, digital, access, biodiversity, landscape, culture, health, employment, leisure, youth services, regeneration and historic environment. As EC funding is no longer available from December 2021, Scottish Government funding is now being used to support rural and island projects through the Community Led Local Development (CLLD) Programme, thereby ensuring the continuation of the LEADER ethos of funding what rural communities say they need, rather than other bodies think they need. The Scottish Government have committed £11.6m for financial year 2022-23 to support CLLD across rural and island Scotland. £7.6m has been allocated to Local Action Groups (LAG) to support CLLD within their areas. The Rural and Islands Communities Ideas into Action Fund will provide £3m of funding for rural community groups to deliver community led solutions in their area.
  • We are committed to bringing forward an ambitious new Land Reform Bill in 2023. This new Bill will build on our land reform measures to date and will further tackle Scotland's historically iniquitous patterns of land ownership, while also seeking to ensure that our land is owned, managed and used in ways that rise to the challenges of today: net zero, nature restoration and a just transition.
  • Ongoing implementation of Part 1 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 provides for a right of responsible access to land and inland water throughout Scotland which is world-leading in terms of extent, scope and clarity. Those taking access must follow the guidance provided in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Land managers must respect access rights when managing land and inland water. Local authorities and National Park Authorities help integrate access and land management.
  • The low carbon Vacant and Derelict Land Investment Programme (VDLIP) provides £50m funding for local authorities working with communities to bring forward ambitious proposals for the reuse of vacant and derelict land. By prioritising the reuse of persistent vacant and derelict land, and protecting our existing natural capital and assets, we can ensure that investment goes into areas where it is needed the most, supporting shared ambitions for place, community led regeneration, town centres, and 20 minute neighbourhoods.
  • In addition, the Scottish Government works with public, private and third sector partners to deliver a range of initiatives to encourage business start-ups and grow existing businesses, including supporting Business Improvement Districts and the provision of financial support and advice.

Case Study - Doune Ponds – Managing The Land In Partnership: Moray Estates and Doune Community Woodland Group

A former gravel and sand quarry, Doune Ponds is a 40-acre Local Nature Reserve owned by Moray Estates and managed in partnership with Doune Community Woodland Group (DCWG) since 2014.

Moray Estates initially approached the community through the Kilmadock Community Council (CC) to explore local involvement, and after positive response DCWG was set up.


Doune Ponds is actively managed by DCWG, Kilmadock CC, and Moray Estates. A ten-year Management Agreement (2014-2024) is in place between Moray Estates and DCWG, with a focus on restoration, access and conservation. A nine-member Management Group was created to hold overall responsibility: Moray Estates hold a permanent place along with two CC representatives. Monthly meetings have resulted in an effective partnership between landowner and community, sharing liability, investment, skills and ideas and working towards their 10-year plan.

Achievements and Benefits

The active management of Doune Ponds has seen an area of neglected land regenerated into an accessible, well-used community greenspace: 1,400 metres of new footpath, steps, footbridges, bird hides and picnic benches have been installed and many existing paths refurbished. A haven for wildlife and biodiversity, the reserve is home to ducks, swans, roe deer, red squirrels, pike and perch, as well as being an important site for fungi.

Active involvement has given the community a strong sense of ownership. Used daily by walkers and regularly by groups including the school, Doune Ponds is a valued public amenity: it won the Small Community Woodland Award in 2017 and was Highly Commended in 2019 at the Scottish Finest Woods Awards.

A key benefit of land-owners and communities working side-by-side is the opportunity it allows both to get to know each other, building a relationship based on open, regular communication. Moray Estates recognises that this has led to further partnership working with the Doune community and is committed to community engagement on future development plans for the estate.

Volunteers are the lynchpin of the partnership's success. DCWG currently has 45 members who have volunteered 7,000 hours to date. The majority are retirees who take pride in developing a site that has value for the wider community and environment. Wednesdays have become 'site day' where volunteers gather, share the workload and enjoy the company – a valuable social benefit in itself. Lady Moray often joins them for a cup of tea and chat.

Moray Estates invests financially and through in-kind support from staff, while DCWG has accessed grants, community benefit funding from a local windfarm, community donations, and in-kind plant hire and materials. Combined with volunteer hours, this has transformed the site in a very short time. The shared liability for Doune Ponds is valued by both Moray Estates and DCWG.

What's Next

Happy with the relationship and way of working, Moray Estates and DCWG believe that this model would benefit landowners, communities and the sustainable management of small woodlands across Scotland. Having identified few challenges, the Management Group is focusing on volunteer succession, proactively planning and recruiting for this. There is a long-term commitment to continue managing Doune Ponds in partnership, maintaining it as a productive, valued community asset.



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