Scottish land rights and responsibilities statement

Statement of land rights and responsibilities in Scotland, as required by Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016.

Part 1 - Overview of the Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement

Land reform in Scotland, including matters relating to the ownership, use and management of land and associated rights and responsibilities, is continually evolving. This Statement is a key step in guiding that process. It seeks to inform policy and practice around land issues in Scotland, operating in concert with other relevant strategies and policies. It applies to all urban and rural land, buildings and other infrastructure in Scotland, and it is equally relevant to all the people and communities of Scotland, whether land owner, land manager, tenant or land user.

The principles within this statement are intended to be mutually supportive. They underpin the Scottish Government's vision for a stronger relationship between the people of Scotland and the land, where ownership and use of land delivers greater public benefits through a democratically accountable and transparent system of land rights and responsibilities.

The Scottish Government must, under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016, promote the principles in the Statement when exercising its functions, so far as this is reasonably practicable. However, for the Statement to be an effective catalyst for change, all those with decision-making powers in relation to land have an important role in the realisation of the principles.

The Scottish Land Commission, established in April 2017, is required, among other things, to have regard to the Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement in exercising its functions. The Statement and the Scottish Land Commission are important elements of our commitment to ensure that land reform continues to progress.

While the publication of the Statement is the responsibility of Scottish Ministers, the Land Commissioners will play a key role in supporting the development and realisation of the Statement's principles through the provision of expert guidance and advice. Their work will help inform the review of the Statement which Ministers are required to undertake at least every five years.

This first Statement has been published following a wide ranging consultation with individuals and organisations.

Aims of the Statement

The aims of the Statement are as follows:

Firstly, to inform the development of Government policy and action in relation to land, whether that be in planning, housing provision, urban regeneration, farming, caring for the environment or any other Government activities that relate to land. The Statement interrelates with many existing strategies and policies, and it will help inform future iterations of Scotland's Economic Strategy, the Land Use Strategy, and the National Planning Framework.

Secondly, to encourage and support others with significant responsibilities over land, such as local authorities and large private land owners, to consider how their decision-making powers could contribute to realising the vision in the Statement. Many of those who own and manage land in Scotland are already delivering significant benefits and working successfully with local communities but good practice is not yet universal.

Decisions about land ownership, use and management can help address some key issues we face in the 21st century, such as housing shortages, inequality, and threats to the environment.

Private land owners in this context include not only private individuals, but companies, trusts, non-governmental organisations, charities, and community land owners.

Thirdly, to encourage all of us to recognise our responsibilities as well as our rights in relation to land. Decisions that we take as individuals, families, businesses and other groups can have a significant impact on the land and the rights of others who make use of land for legitimate reasons such as business or recreational purposes.

Structure of the Statement

The Statement comprises a vision and six principles and is supported by advisory notes and case study examples. The vision and principles are high-level and ambitious and, together, provide a goal to work towards. The Statement intentionally does not define how land rights and responsibilities should apply in specific or day-to-day situations.

The advisory notes and case studies provide further background and explanation of how the principles can apply in practice and how they link to other policies. They are not intended to be comprehensive or prescriptive.

Meaning of the term "land"

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 does not define the meaning of "land" for the purposes of the Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement.

Schedule 1 of the Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 applies: this provides that '"land" includes buildings and other structures, land covered with water, and any right or interest in or over land'.


Email: Chris Bierley,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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