Scottish Land Commission launches its latest Protocol: Good Stewardship of Land

Our dedicated rural experts provide an insightful overview of the latest protocol published by the Scottish Land Commission, focused on promoting good stewardship and high standards of land management across Scotland.

27 October 2020

The Scottish Land Commission has recently published its seventh Land Rights and Responsibilities Protocol, which focuses on promoting good stewardship and high standards of land management across Scotland. This protocol is the latest in a series published by the Commission to support the Scottish Government’s Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement (LRRS).

The LRRS and general principles

The LRRS sits alongside relevant legislation, codes and regulations that apply to land. It consists of six principles that underpin the protocols.

This latest protocol is specifically designed to support the fourth principle of the LRRS:

The holders of land rights should exercise these rights in ways that take account of their responsibilities to meet high standards of land ownership, management and use. Acting as stewards of Scotland’s land resource for future generations, they contribute to sustainable growth and a modern, successful country.”

All of the Scottish Land Commission’s protocols seek to ensure that the overall framework of provisions in relation to land management promote, fulfil and respect human rights, and engage in and contribute to the public interest, while also balancing competing public and private interests. At the centre of the LRRS is a commitment to support economic development in a sustainable way that protects and enhances the environment and leads to a fairer society.

Specific expectations of the protocol

The protocol applies to any person who holds land rights. Importantly, this definition includes both those who own land in Scotland and those who control the long-term use or management of land in Scotland. The protocol also extends to individuals, businesses and organisations that have significant land management responsibilities.

The protocol sets out a number of ‘specific expectations’, consisting of recommendations and more formal provisions with which the Scottish Land Commission expect all persons holding land rights to comply.

The overall purpose of these specific expectations is to promote good stewardship of land, however particular consideration should be given to the following recommendations:

  • Owners and managers of land should be proactive when making decisions about its use and management. In addition, consultation with the local community is expected, where appropriate.
  • When deciding about the use of the land they own/maintain, owners and managers should consider whether it is being used in a way that supports sustainable development. The protocol recommends that owners and managers factor in this self-assessment as part of their current business practices. The protocol builds on this by stating that owners and managers of land should review the long-term implications of the decisions they make in relation to the use and management of their land.
  • If land is suitable for a specific use (such as food production or flood management), then owners and managers should consider this when making decisions about the land.
  • Owners and managers of land, where possible, should take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. All people who own, manage or use land (including the public) should act responsibly towards others and the environment.
  • Where land or buildings have deteriorated to such an extent that they are harmful to the surrounding community, owners and managers should work collaboratively with the community to restore them.
  • Owners and managers of land should take steps and develop strategies to minimise the number of vacant properties. This is to avoid the situation where a site can become problematic due to being vacant, and deteriorate as a result. In addition, owners of land should avoid taking part in activity that may lead to land becoming ownerless.
  • Where owners/managers of land have long-term plans in place for land, they should consider feasible uses in the interim that will maximise its practical benefit.

Implementation of the protocol

The Scottish Land Commission, from time to time, produces materials and guidance to help individuals comply with the provisions of the protocol. Ultimately it is up to individuals, business and anyone else to ensure they use and manage land in a reasonable and considerate way. For more information on responsible access rights in Scotland, please click here.

For more information, please contact Hamish Lean, Head of Rural Property and Business, at or Alexandra Smith, Associate in our rural team, at

Additional reporting by Harry Oliff.