New protocol underlines good community engagement practice
I’m sure we’d all agree that good relations between land owners, land managers, rural businesses and local communities are in our shared interests. And it’s in this spirit that we welcome the Scottish Land Commission’s (SLC) publication of the first in a series of guides (known as ‘protocols’), which sets out practical advice on how land owners, land managers and communities can better work together when making decisions about land use.
The ‘Community Engagement in Decisions Relating to Land’ protocol is a clear four-page document designed to help deliver meaningful community engagement. It sets out ‘general principles’ and ‘specific expectations’ to guide relevant parties through the process, particularly where decisions will have a ‘significant impact’. While the Protocol and its accompanying documents are not hard and fast rules that place additional duties on anyone involved, they do offer helpful advice that can be adapted to meet the varied circumstances across rural Scotland.
For those who already meet or exceed the standards set out in the protocol, it will give them confidence they are doing a good job and an opportunity to share experience with others. For anyone looking to improve their practice it provides useful resources as well as a good benchmark to work towards.
We strongly support effective engagement because it delivers benefits for all and ultimately helps rural Scotland thrive. Our members understand that building good relationships with their local communities will help solve issues, which will contribute to more resilient communities, often in remote and fragile areas. While communities can benefit socially, environmentally and economically from well-run estates, land owners stand to benefit from the skills and knowledge contributed by the community as part of the engagement process.
Our Landowners’ Commitment already sets out principles for estate planning and decision-making. So, for many, the protocol will mean business as usual. For those looking for additional support, this publication is an important first step in helping build confidence in engaging with communities. We will keep working with the SLC and others to ensure that landowners get the right level of practical assistance to further improve engagement. For more information contact Gavin Mowat.