Following the publication of the second Land Use Strategy by the Scottish Government, Scottish Land & Estates has issued the following statement.
Andrew Midgley, Projects and Research Manager at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Throughout the last few years in the land reform process Scottish Land & Estates has sought to emphasise the importance of focusing on land use rather than ownership and so we are supportive of the principle of a Land Use Strategy. We have also emphasised, however, that there is a need to build bridges with land managers rather than government and managers – and public and private interests - being at loggerheads. The Land Use Strategy could be a good thing. Our members are crying out for a more strategic and joined up approach to land use. But a great deal depends on how it is taken forward. The Land Use Strategy could be taken forward in a way that brings people together to work to achieve positive land use or it could be taken forward in a way that alienates land managers.
“A great deal more will be achieved if the government works with land managers rather than against them and so we would urge the Scottish Government to take the Land Use Strategy forward with great sensitivity and in a way that acknowledges the legitimate interests of land managers and their land-based businesses.
“That sort of approach is, however, labour intensive; it requires people building positive relationships and that takes time and effort. Consequently, if the government really wants to see the Land Use Strategy deliver positive outcomes it needs to devote appropriate resources to helping it happen. At present, it does not appear that the Land Use Strategy is accorded the priority status that would be required and so the government could run the risk of taking things forward in a way that drives the different interests apart rather than bringing them together.
“The development of a strategy for the uplands could be a case in point. In the uplands there are many issues that raise passions and around which there is vigorous debate. In this context, the government and SNH will have to move forward with great care. If they take the opportunity to develop a process that brings all interested parties together to understand one another’s point of view, they could actually achieve something useful; if the development of an uplands strategy is done on the cheap it could just further divide interest groups in an unhelpful way.
“Our headline message to Scottish Government is that the Land Use Strategy could be a real opportunity to address land use issues in a constructive way, but everything depends on how the government chooses to take it forward. We urge them to work with landowners, farmers and other land managers, rather than against them.”