The community engagement aspect of the Land Reform Bill currently making its way through Holyrood has been raised at portfolio question time by Labour MSP Foysol Choudhury.

Community engagement is one of a raft of measures contained within the bill aimed at the owners of large landholdings, but the move has faced criticism because of the financial burden on landowners.

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said the bill ‘seeks to empower communities and ensure that the benefits of land ownership, and decisions about how land is owned, managed and used, are more widely shared.

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She added: “The bill sets out that owners of very large landholdings will be required to engage with local communities on the development—and significant changes to—a land management plan.

“The detail of what is required to meet the engagement requirements will be set out in regulations, following further consultation, to ensure that there is meaningful collaboration and community engagement in decisions about land.”

Highlands and Islands SNP Emma Roddick said: “Although there are some good examples of landowners utilising the potential of a holding’s natural capital, does the cabinet secretary share my view that, if someone can afford to buy an estate that costs millions of pounds, they can also afford to ensure that the natural capital potential of the piece of Scotland that they have the privilege of owning is fully utilised for the community as a whole”?

Ms Gougeon said the Scottish Government wants Scotland to be a ‘country where rights and responsibilities in relation to land and our natural capital are fully recognised and fulfilled. ‘Investment in restoring and protecting Scotland’s natural environment is essential if we are to have any hope of addressing the nature and climate emergencies that we face, especially at the pace and scale required.’

She added: “It is a public responsibility, but it is also a private responsibility, so we will ultimately need both sources of finance to work well together if we are to achieve our very ambitious climate and biodiversity goals.

“It is important to point out that our forthcoming natural capital markets framework will set out the requirements for all market participants to contribute to our vision for a values-led, high-integrity, responsible investment in natural capital.”