Guide aims to improve transparency in Scots land market

A guide to improve communication and transparency between landowners, managers and communities has been implemented in Scotland.

The community engagement protocol, the first of its kind to be published by the Scottish Land Commission, aims to develop collaboration and engagement between those who make decisions about land and those who are affected by them.

The Scottish Land Commission was formed in 2016 to oversee ongoing changes implemented by the Scottish Land Reform Act.

See also: Scottish land reform – what farmers need to know

This protocol will support the practical implementation of the Scottish government’s Guidance on Engaging Communities in Decisions Relating to Land, part of the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement.

It will cover owners, land managers, local authorities and other relevant community organisations.

The requirements include:

  • Up-to-date contact information should always be publicly available
  • Aspirations or concerns about land management should be communicated promptly to the owner or manager
  • Requests for information and meetings should be accommodated within six weeks
  • A joint engagement plan for land decisions should be developed within 12 months
  • Information about proposed changes to significantly alter land management should be publicly available
  • Arrangements for recording actions and decisions taken at meetings should be agreed in advance
  • People making decisions that may have a significant impact on the community should explain how these views have been taken into account

NFU Scotland worked with the Land Commission on the protocol and said it was important to note that those who owned or managed land were not expected to engage about everyday land management activities.

Gemma Cooper, head of the NFU Scotland policy team, said: “It is also important to stress that many land managers already undertake what is considered best practice and regularly communicate positively with the communities of which they are an important part.

“This new protocol is certainly not intended to impede farmers as they undertake their business activities, and NFUS will be closely monitoring any impacts from its introduction.”

Key engagement

Scottish Land & Estates welcomed the guide, saying good relations were in everyone’s shared interests and it strongly supported engagement between stakeholders.

Gavin Mowat, policy adviser for rural communities at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “For land managers who already meet or exceed the standards set out in the protocol, it will give them confidence that they are doing a good job.

“For others who are looking to improve their practice, it provides a good benchmark to work towards.”

The protocol will be kept under review by the Land Commissioners in consultation with supporting stakeholders.

For more information, visit the Scottish government’s website or the Land Commission’s website.