Practical expectations for private trusts and charities owning land in Scotland have been set out in two new protocols published by the Scottish Land Commission.
Designed to ensure that the way land is owned, managed and used benefits everyone in Scotland, the protocols set out expectations on trustees and land managers to act in a way that is fair and considers the needs and priorities of the local community; encourages positive behaviour by all parties; and actively engages local communities in decisions on land use and land management.
They also apply to community councils and other community bodies representing a defined geographic area.
Specific expectations set out in both protocols include:
- that there should be up-to-date, publicly available information about who the trustees are, and readily available contact information for the landholding;
- where there are plans to make significant changes that will impact a local community, trustees should follow the procedures set out in the Commission’s Protocol on Community Engagement;
- if possible, trustees are appointed from the local area where the land is held.
The protocols, with accompanying FAQs to support affected landowners, are the third and fourth in a series produced by the Commission to encourage practical implementation of the Scottish Government’s Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement (LRRS).
Speaking about the new protocols, Land Commissioner Sally Reynolds highlighted that while much good practice already exists, the Commission believes that landowning trusts and charities could further improve their transparency, accountability and governance. She commented: "Land is Scotland’s biggest asset, so it important that it is owned, managed and used in a fair way that benefits everyone.
"Private trusts and charities own significant areas of Scotland’s land. These protocols will help improve understanding and transparency about the way trusts and charities operate as landowners.
"In particular, we are encouraging trusts and charities to consider how Scotland’s land rights and responsibilities principles are reflected in their governance structures, including for example the selection of trustees and their engagement processes."
The Commission will provide advice to trusts, trustees and communities where appropriate to encourage good practice. It is also keen to hear about positive examples of good working relationships, and welcomes information about successful collaboration between trusts, charities and local communities that can inform case studies, to help others.
The protocols will be kept under review by the Land Commissioners and the Good Practice Advisory Group to inform future recommendations that they make to Scottish Government.