Scottish Government
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Land use strategy

A new approach to getting the best from Scotland's land was proposed yesterday.

A consultation has been launched on a strategy which sets out, for the first time, a high-level, long-term agenda for sustainable land use across Scotland.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead said this was the first time that land use across Scotland has been considered in this way - setting down in one place 'our thinking on how we manage our valuable resources so as to maximise the benefits on an ongoing basis'.

The consultation proposes three strategic objectives:

  • Successful land-based businesses contributing to Scotland's prosperity and wellbeing
  • Flourishing natural environments delivering the widest range of benefits to Scotland, and playing their part in mitigating global climate change, and
  • Vibrant, sustainable communities in urban and rural areas, with people connected to the land, enjoying it and taking an interest in its future

The Scottish Government launched its integrated approach two years ago with the Rural Land Use Study, and is committed to this 'vital dialogue' with everyone interested in urban and rural land.

Mr Lochhead said:

"Scotland's land provides us with a wealth of natural resources. It is perhaps our most valuable asset. Our land is the mainstay of many businesses, it supports our communities and it provides one of the world's most celebrated and important natural environments.

"There has always been a multitude of pressures on land use - you only have to ask any farmer or land manager about the day-to-day decisions they make to get an insight. Our natural environment may be bountiful and beautiful, but it's also fragile and demanding. And the big issues of the 21st century such as food, water and energy security can all be addressed by integrated land use.

"This Land Use Strategy will be an important tool for decision-makers, whether communities, businesses, interest groups or individual land managers. It will highlight opportunities and threats as we move to a low-carbon society, and help us work out how to make appropriate trade-offs when required. And it will support our goals on food security, biodiversity and tree-planting, and show how rural and urban Scotland depend on each other.

"Not only is this a comprehensive new agenda for sustainable land use, it also proposes specific Government actions for the next five years. However this isn't just about actions for Government, it is important that we work together towards achieving from our land a wider range of benefits for our economy, our environment and our communities.

"Developing this Strategy also benefited from the views of more than 500 participants at discussion workshops around Scotland in the Spring. This input helped us to develop our three sustainable land use objectives: successful land-based businesses, flourishing natural environments and vibrant, sustainable communities. Each objective is key to maximising sustainable economic growth."

Vicki Swales, Convenor of the Scottish Environment LINK Taskforce following the progress of the Strategy, welcomed the consultation. She said:

"Both the Climate Change Act and the Land Use Strategy have major implications for how we use our limited land resources, now and into the future. Scottish Ministers were right to herald both of these as ground-breaking; all eyes are now on Ministers to make sure the Act and Strategy live up to expectations.

"Putting all the pieces of the land use jigsaw together will be complicated but the benefits of getting it right are huge. Land provides us with so much - not just food and timber but clean water, wildlife and places to live and enjoy - but we need to make some critical decisions about the future. We need to maximise the benefits from land, and avoid conflicts and ensure we manage this limited resource sustainably."

Jonnie Hall, head of rural policy at NFUS welcomed an integrated approach to land use. He said:

"Farming continues as the primary land use over the vast majority of Scotland, and plays the pivotal role in rural vitality as the farmed landscape also accommodates other functions and interests - many of which have a history of being driven by disjointed policy measures. It's also clear that Scotland's land is far from uniform and increasing expectations and demands are being placed upon it - from food production to tackling climate change and from natural heritage conservation to outdoor recreation.

"NFU Scotland considers it essential that the Land Use Strategy sets out a framework that ensures that the primary functions of Scotland's land, especially farming and food production which will forever be in the public interest, are knitted together by complementary additional land uses. With finite land resources, Scotland can not afford policies that may foster exclusive land uses in pursuit of fleeting aspirations. NFU Scotland looks forward to a Land Use Strategy that steers complementary policies that bring about proper integration of land use."

Written responses to the consultation are invited by December 17, 2010 (earlier responses would be welcome).

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