Green land investment in rural Scotland: social and economic impacts

Outlines the findings of research into the range of potential social and economic impacts relating to new forms of green land investment in rural Scotland.

6. Recommendations

Based on the research findings, in particular the interviews with community representatives, the following recommendations can be made:

Recommendations for policy makers:

  • Policy makers should consider community participants’ calls for greater regulation of the natural capital market[26], to ensure the market operates in a transparent way and that communities are able to see that it is being regulated and having a positive impact.
  • Policy makers should consider the requirement that green land investors and landowners who benefit financially from natural capital markets provide a proportionate share of profits to communities of place that are affected and/or to ensure upkeep of rural roads where there is increased forestry traffic associated with afforestation. In particular, policy makers should consider the need for a set minimum of community benefit payments to localities from windfarm developments to become a legal requirement.
  • Policy makers are encouraged to explore removing (actual or perceived) barriers of access to natural capital markets for tenant farmers and crofters, and to ensure that tenant farmers and crofters are able to access support schemes where there is green land investment landownership.
  • Policy makers must consider how best to support farming and gamekeeping communities in the just transition, for example ensuring that the scientific evidence regarding land management and land use change is clearly communicated, and introducing support schemes for those whose agricultural businesses may become unviable to provide retraining and reskilling opportunities.

Recommendations for green land investors/owners:

  • Green land investors and landowners (both incoming and outgoing owners) must ensure that any shift in employment types (including redundancy or reassignment of roles), land use change (e.g. shifting from livestock grazing to afforestation), or plans for the conversion of housing stock considers the long-term consequences of these changes to rural community sustainability and the just transition, and seeks to mitigate negative impacts (for example, by seeking to provide alternative employment or accommodation options).
  • Green land investors and landowners must ensure transparency and accountability in their land management plans and ownership objectives. This should be shared with communities of place and communities of interest who may be affected, and community feedback integrated into planning processes.
  • Green land investors and landowners should ensure that community voices are represented on the decision-making boards or management committees of their companies. Further to this, community engagement at local levels should adhere to best practice guidance[27] (for example, communicating clearly with communities, publicising engagement events effectively, and seeking to address barriers to participation). Where necessary, third-party advisors and arbitrators should intervene to ensure that communities are fully aware of land management plans.

Practical suggestions for positive community-green land investor-owner engagement are presented in Box 2 (below)[28].

Recommendations for rural communities of place and communities of interest:

  • Rural communities should seek opportunities and be supported to engage with landowners (for example through invitations to regular community meetings) and overcome barriers to communication and representation (e.g. lack of knowledge on the part of landowners regarding community organisations or discussion forums) to articulate shared interests and future goals.
  • Farmers should seek opportunities and be supported to engage with landowners and landowner representatives to share land management goals and objectives, and overcome barriers to constructive conversations about future plans. Farming organisations should share up-to-date information with members regarding low-emission and nature-friendly farming practices, or opportunities to gain new skills that will support them in the just transition.

Recommendations for researchers/academics:

  • Longitudinal social research is necessary to further monitor and understand the potential and actual long-term social and economic impacts of green land investment in rural Scotland, and the implications of good practice community engagement.

Box 2: Practical suggestions for positive community-landowner engagement

The interviews with both community members and green land-investor owners, as well as the community-based workshops, identified several key practical recommendations for positive landowner-community engagement, including:

1. The importance of building long-term, trusted relationships between landowners, landowner representatives and community members (both communities of place and of interest). This is commonly facilitated by having resident landowners or landowner representatives, which allows for everyday interactions (e.g. through using local services, attending community events, etc.), albeit ensuring that social hierarchies (or perceived class differences) do not prevent positive engagement.

2. Ensuring that the landholding has an ‘open door policy’ i.e. a known and accessible estate office and employees, providing regular opportunities for local people and visitors to learn about land management activities (e.g. through open days, estate tours, volunteering opportunities, etc.). Identifying and participating in active local communication forums (e.g. popular social media platforms and key discussion groups) and participating in community groups (e.g. community councils and development trusts).

3. Developing a communications strategy that adopts a range of communications mechanisms to reach the widest range of people, both locally and further afield (but not only focussing on a tourist market). Ensuring that the landholding has an accessible website with up-to-date information about land management plans, recreational access, and contact information for relevant employees and the landowner.

4. Ensuring that community engagement is ongoing and communication is two-way, between landowner and community, in order to mitigate concerns that engagement or consultation processes are only for the purposes of fulfilling planning requirements or are seen as ‘tick box’ exercises. Building individual relationships with diverse community members and groups is considered critical to generating community support for land management and land use change.

5. Co-developing opportunities for greater community involvement in land management decision-making (e.g. through representation on landowning boards or within trustee bodies). Identifying opportunities for community members and community groups to develop enterprises in conjunction with the green land investment-owner.



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