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Regional Land Use Partnerships

Hamish Trench

The Scottish Government has asked the Land Commission to advise on the establishment of regional land use partnerships, a commitment in the 2019 Programme for Government. Here, Chief Executive Hamish Trench looks at what we’ll need to consider.

The Scottish Land Commission is shaping a coherent programme of land reform spanning urban and rural land to improve the productivity, diversity and accountability of the way Scotland’s land is owned and used. The way we own and use land is central to big public policy challenges including climate action, productivity, and a fair economy. Reforms to both land ownership and use are needed to unlock opportunities for inclusive growth and to make the most of our land for common good. Our conference last month highlighted some of the strong connections between land, climate and a fair economy.

In addition to our ongoing work, the Scottish Government has asked the Land Commission to advise on the establishment of regional land use partnerships to maximise the potential of Scotland’s land in taking action on climate change.

Scotland’s land resource is the reason our climate target for net zero emissions is set ahead of the rest of the UK. That we have the technical ability to make a major contribution to climate action through land use is not in doubt. Our challenge and opportunity is to deliver this and to do it in a fair and productive way. The Scottish Government wants to establish regional land use partnerships and frameworks to drive this action.

Scotland’s Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement and the Land Use Strategy both remind us that delivering public value from our land is as much about governance, participation and accountability, as it is about technical management practices.

So as we look at how best regional land use partnerships could be established, we should all challenge ourselves on what kind of structures and powers are needed, both to deliver the scale and pace of action required, and also to widen participation, empowerment and benefit in decisions about land. We will need to be clear about the purpose of partnerships and the governance arrangements that follow.

Regional and place-based leadership is increasingly at the heart of Scotland’s wider approach to inclusive economic growth, for example through Regional Economic Partnerships. The recent Planning Act also requires the development of Regional Spatial Strategies. It seems natural that we should connect wider land use choices and opportunities into this regional context.

The new partnerships bring opportunities to ensure people are more engaged in decisions about land use change, helping unlock the economic, social and environmental opportunities for communities and land managers, and supporting local action.

We know many people and organisations have supported the idea of regional land use partnerships for some time. Now we have an opportunity to move forward and put in place partnerships that will have real influence and impact.

The Land Commission intends to report to Ministers with proposals in mid-2020 and will publish a scoping paper early in the new year seeking views and engagement. We will welcome wide engagement to make the most of this opportunity for reform, so that we can develop proposals that are sufficiently ambitious, practical and effective.