Scottish Land Commission unveils community-centred land use guidelines

Aerial images of crop fields in Midlothian. Photographer Barrie Williams. Copyright of Scottish Government

IN A pioneering move to prioritise local communities, the Scottish Land Commission has unveiled groundbreaking guidelines emphasising the vital role of community-centred land use decisions. As Scotland witnesses a surge in demand for rural land, driven in part by the emerging potential of natural capital, these practical guidelines serve as a cornerstone for landowners, ensuring that evolving land value and use directly benefit the communities involved.

The comprehensive guidance, titled ‘Delivering Community Benefits from Land,’ outlines key principles for landowners to adhere to, ensuring direct community benefits from new land value and use changes. This initiative is a significant step towards fulfilling the Scottish Government’s expectation that land investments should directly contribute to community welfare.

Emma Cooper, Head of Land Rights and Responsibilities at the Scottish Land Commission, emphasised the importance of empowering communities in the decision-making process: “Sustainable communities require more than just land engagement; they demand empowerment. Land is pivotal to delivering affordable housing, quality jobs, local businesses, and access to outdoor spaces. We believe that community benefits must no longer be viewed as optional but as a priority in land decisions.”

The guidance builds on the Scottish Land Commission’s policy recommendations for a just transition, advocating for stronger regulation of carbon and nature markets, integrating community benefit requirements into public grants and market frameworks, and enhancing community capacity.

Highlighting positive examples, the guidance showcases land use initiatives that directly benefit communities, such as the Tayvallich Initiative, Balcaskie Estate, and Peatland ACTION. It sets a clear definition for community benefits and provides practical opportunities for landowners, managers, communities, and investors to collaborate effectively.

The release of this guidance coincides with the Scottish Government’s commitment to developing a nature market framework, highlighting the need for clarity regarding community benefits in land use decisions. With increasing demand for land acquisition for nature and climate action, community benefit integration becomes essential, even in the face of private finance investments.

“As the landscape transforms due to nature and climate action initiatives, we have a unique opportunity to create models where communities play a central role in decisions and ownership. Clarity on community benefits is essential to realise this opportunity,” added Emma Cooper.

This initiative aligns with the Scottish Land Commission’s three-year strategic plan, focusing on people, power, and prosperity, aiming to bolster Scotland’s land reform journey. The public body envisions a Scotland where land ownership and use bolster thriving communities.To access the ‘Delivering Community Benefits from Land’ Guidance and FAQs, please visit the official Scottish Land Commission website: Scottish Land Commission.

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