Land use has long been recognised as playing a vital role in tackling the climate and environment crises and adapting to inevitable climate change. Scotland's first Land Use Strategy was produced under a requirement of section 57 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. In addition to this, Section 37A of The Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 placed a further duty on Scottish Ministers to produce annual reports on the Land Use Strategy. This document is the second of such reports and covers the period of March 2020 to March 2021. It is the final annual report that reflects upon Scotland's Second Land Use Strategy 2016-2021 (LUS2).
Since the publication of the first LUS2 annual report (July 2020), a number of key policy documents have been published that relate to or impact on land use or land management.
In October 2020 the Scottish Government launched its consultation on the draft new air quality strategy – Cleaner Air For Scotland 2. This draft strategy set out proposals for delivering further air quality improvements over the next five years in areas such as agriculture, industry and transport. It proposed reducing ammonia emissions, protecting natural ecosystems from nitrogen based damage, and advancement of low emissions zones in our cities. The draft strategy also recognised the importance of an integrated approach and the value of nature based solutions to deliver multiple benefits for society and the natural environment. Although beyond the scope of this report, the final Strategy was launched in July 2021.
In December 2020 the Scottish Government published the Climate Change Plan update (CCPu) which updates the 2018-2032 Climate Change Plan to reflect the changes to Scotland's emissions reduction targets brought in by the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019. Containing more than 100 new policies and proposals, the CCPu sets out how Scotland will meet its emissions targets over the period to 2032, and will support our just transition to net zero by 2045. The CCPu also sets out steps we will take to support a green recovery from COVID-19. These actions will deliver across multiple objectives such as: strengthening the economy, protecting and creating new jobs, and building a more resilient and a fairer society whilst reducing emissions and improving our environment and wellbeing.
The Just Transition Commission published their final report in March 2021, emphasising that Scotland's transition to net zero should be a national mission and be planned for with meaningful engagement. The Commission highlighted that climate action, fairness and opportunity must go together - and that taking action to tackle climate change must in addition make Scotland a healthier, more prosperous and more equal society, whilst restoring its natural environment. The Scottish Government has welcomed this report and recognises the importance of ensuring that Scotland's journey to net zero is just. The Scottish Government is currently considering the Commission's report and a cross-Government response is expected to be published later in 2021.
Scotland's Third Land Use Strategy was also published in March 2021. It focuses on the integrated nature of land use, and for the first time adopts a landscape-based approach to demonstrate the interconnected range of demands and benefits we all get from our land. The new Strategy highlights ongoing policy actions that are addressing the climate and environment crises and delivering better outcomes for Scotland's communities. Recognising that Scotland's land is a resource that should benefit everyone, and that we all have a responsibility to ensure its sustainable use, the strategy centres on the importance of inclusive discussions around how land can best be used and managed.