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Community Engagement Baseline Survey Report 2019 Results Announced

Knowledge about land ownership and plans for land use differ between rural and urban communities, the Scottish Land Commission has discovered through a survey.

The Commission carried out two surveys last year, one for landowners and one for communities, to establish a baseline understanding of the level of awareness and participation in engagement activities. Around half of the community respondents from urban areas did not know who landowners were or how to contact them, compared to around only 15 per cent in rural areas.

Both surveys indicate a need to promote greater understanding between landowners and communities, and that support in engaging and developing relationships would be welcomed. The Commission recently launched a good practice programme which includes protocols, guidance and training in relation to land rights and responsibilities.

The programme’s aim is to strengthen relationships between everyone with an interest in land and property, and the Commission’s surveys will help to establish baseline detail on what both land owners and communities know and feel about local land issues and practices, including awareness of the Scottish Government’s Guidance on Engaging Communities in Decisions Relating to Land and the Land Commission’s Protocol on Community Engagement in Decisions Relating to Land.

Land owners saw proper engagement as valuable, as it:

  • enhances understanding between communities and landowners
  • builds trust
  • leads to improved relationships
  • saves time
  • reduces conflict and controversy
  • promotes sharing of ideas and suggestions.

Landowners also see membership organisations as a key route for gaining access to information and training, with 46% indicating that that was the case.

Almost 51% of people in urban areas do not know who local landowners are or how to contact them, according to the survey. Thirty-five per cent of all community survey respondents said they had little or no understanding of how decisions relating to land are made in their area.

Community respondents said that engagement could improve by:

  • effecting cultural change
  • proper listening, dialogue and transparency of decision making
  • getting more and better-quality information
  • having a range of activities to engage a broader spectrum of people to participate
  • helping communities to be better organised and better supported with resources to take part in and respond to engagement activities.

Gemma Campbell, Good Practice Manager at the Scottish Land Commission, said:

“From our surveys we see there is a need for greater transparency around ownership and decision-making processes regarding land. We continue to work with membership organisations to promote the good practice programme. We have plans for workshops and training for key intermediaries, including membership organisations and land agents, to strengthen understanding and use of the guidance and protocol.

“Through our Good Practice Programme, we will be developing a Protocol on Transparency in Relation to Land Ownership and Management and publishing additional guidance on producing Management Plans that will enable landowners to share information about land use and management with communities.

“Our work on Community Engagement will continue to be a key part of the Good Practice Programme as it develops. We will promote and share information, including practical advice and case studies, which will provide clarity about expectations and reasonable and fair behaviour.”

Community Engagement Baseline Surveys 2019