Embedding land rights and responsibilities – a review of the LRRS
In our latest blog, Head of Land Rights and Responsibilities, Emma Cooper, looks at the progress made with the Scottish Government’s Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement (LRRS) over the last five years and where more can be done to embed it in the way Scotland’s land is owned and used.
There is a legislative requirement for the Scottish Government's Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement (LRRS) to be reviewed and laid before Parliament every five years. The first and current LRRS was published in September 2017 and must therefore be reviewed by September 2022. Members of the public and stakeholder organisations were invited to consider the LRRS and revisions proposed by Scottish Government by the end of January this year. The Scottish Land Commission’s response to the consultation can be found in full here.
The LRRS contains six principles which set the vision for a strong and dynamic relationship between Scotland’s land and its people. These principles and vision underpin our work to promote and support change and good practice in the way land is owned and used in both urban and rural Scotland.
Through our Good Practice Programme we have worked with land owners and managers who want to demonstrate their commitment to responsible land ownership to understand and apply the LRRS. This can provide assurance for stakeholders that decisions about land are being made within a recognised framework that defines and promotes responsible practice. For those seeking to better understand and apply the LRRS, we have created a range of protocols, tools and guidance. In addition, we offer one-to-one advice and a LRRS self-assessment template, without charge. Where land owners and communities have faced difficult situations, we’ve worked with them to find mutually agreeable solutions.
This has, in turn, helped us to understand how the LRRS works in practice and to define reasonable expectations for all parties, published in our LRRS Protocols. Our experience tells us the principles of the LRRS are workable for land owners. We often hear that land owners are already undertaking actions to further the principles, and through the pilot self-assessment programme we have been able to work with partners to identify the good practice that is already taking place. You’ll be able to read more about this in a future blog.
We believe that, whilst some adjustments to the principles of the LRRS would aid clarity, there are also benefits to retaining high levels of consistency at this stage of raising awareness of the statement. Growing numbers of land owners and managers are becoming aware of the LRRS. This especially the case with the support of sector membership organisations, such as those in our Good Practice Advisory Group. However, there remain significant gaps in awareness and understanding of the LRRS principles. Therefore, our view is that the main focus of the LRRS review should be on how to better support implementation of the principles.
The ongoing leadership shown by sector membership organisations in raising awareness and encouraging voluntary good practice in furthering the LRRS is essential. There is also more the Commission can do through our Good Practice Programme to encourage and support the voluntary adoption of the LRRS. The Commission is committed to taking this forward and dedicating further resource to extend the support we offer. We will be delivering an enhanced training programme, further advice and guidance, and specialised support to embed the LRRS in practice.
There is more to be done to ensure consistency across policy, embedding the LRRS so that we have a coherent policy landscape. For example, landowners and managers access a range of public support and funding, and require licences or permissions for certain activities. Aligning public policy, including Government and public sector support, with the LRRS has the potential to be very influential in embedding the LRRS principles in practice. However, this will take time and a concerted, co-ordinated effort.
Our experience of the Good Practice Programme has shown that significant progress can be made through voluntary approaches. However, there remain situations where land owners or managers, in any sector, do not engage with the LRRS. This may be due to lack of awareness, or the belief that engagement with the LRRS is not important in decision-making. We believe that there would be benefits in giving the implementation of the LRRS greater statutory footing. We are conscious of the need for any such measures to remain proportionate. They should support, rather than replace, collaborative and voluntary adoption and should only be used as a last resort. The first approach should remain a supportive approach to adopting good practice.
The review of the LRRS must be completed and laid before Parliament by September 2022. Scottish Government, who lead the review, are currently awaiting the independent analysis of the results and will likely publish more information about this around May. We can then expect more information on how the LRRS will be revised, if it is, and what further efforts may be made to support its implementation. Watch this space!