On 18th April 2018, the Scottish Government published the final version of the “Guidance on Engaging Communities in Decisions relating to Land” which they were obliged to prepare in terms of Part 4 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016.
Following a consultation which took place last year, the final Guidance is designed to ensure that community engagement takes into account the aspirations and concerns of communities across Scotland, “enabling and empowering them to help shape decisions about land”. The Ministerial Foreword of the Guidance sets out that engagement “helps to create trust between local communities and those with control over land and demonstrates that land has been managed well”.
Landowners and land managers are advised that community engagement should be proportionate, collaborative and ongoing. The Guidance includes two flowcharts to assist landowners and land managers identify when community engagement should be undertaken (which is when a decision about land is “likely to have a significant impact on the local community”) and also suggest ways in which landowners and land managers should engage with the appropriate members of the community. The Scottish Land Commission has announced that they will be developing a series of Codes of Practice to support practical implementation of the Guidance which will be published in the summer of 2018.
Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement
The Guidance promotes the provisions of the Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement which sets out at Principle 6 that “there should be greater collaboration and community engagement in decisions about land”.
Community Right to Buy
Finally, it is important to note that while the absolute community right to buy to further sustainable development contained in Part 5 of the Land Reform (Scotland) 2016 Act is not yet in force, the 2016 Act provides that landowners’ adherence or non-adherence to the Guidance on Engaging Communities in Decisions relating to Land may be considered by the Scottish Ministers as part of the evidence from a community body when considering an application under this right to buy.