Part 4 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 required the Scottish Ministers to prepare and issue guidance about “engaging communities in decisions relating to land which may affect communities”.

The 2016 Act also provides that the Scottish Government must consult on the terms of this guidance before it is laid before the Scottish Parliament for consideration. A consultation has recently been launched and is open for comments until 16th June 2017 (available here).

The Consultation

The consultation document states that “the purpose of the Guidance is to encourage land owners and land managers to develop co-operative and positive working relationships with local communities” and suggests that landowners and managers should carry out community engagement when the decision relating to land will have a “significant impact” on the local community. The guidance does not replace or duplicate existing statutory requirements for community engagement where these already exist, for example, through the planning process.

Community Engagement

Detailing when community engagement should take place and how this engagement should be conducted are some of the topics considered by the consultation. It will be important to monitor the resulting guidance as the consultation expressly mentions that adherence or non-adherence to the guidance may be considered in the future as part of evidence from a community body to support the new absolute community right to buy to further sustainable development which is contained in Part 5 of the 2016 Act but which is not yet in force. The 2016 Act also provides that the effectiveness of the guidance must also be monitored and reported to the Scottish Parliament within three years of the guidance being issued.