Scotland’s Landscape Monitoring Programme

Publication of three new indicators: Urban Greenspace, Local Landscape Areas and Urban Vacant & Derelict Land


Our landscapes can make a significant contribution to the way we live and our overall wellbeing. Importantly they contribute to biodiversity and climate change mitigation and adaptation. They can help improve physical and mental health and quality of place. Often our local landscapes have distinctive character that provide a sense of place we can identify with. Therefore, our landscapes provide many benefits for people and nature.

Our landscapes are constantly changing. Our responses to the climate emergency and the biodiversity and health crises will increase the scope and speed of that change. The Landscape Monitoring Programme (LaMP) will help us understand how landscapes are changing and how people are responding to those changes.

We are pleased, therefore, to announce the publication of three new indicators to add to the Monitoring Programme on Urban Greenspace, Local Landscape Areas and Urban Vacant & Derelict Land.

Balemartine, Isle of Tiree. Copyright P&A Macdonald

The National Programme

The LaMP monitors aspects of Scotland’s landscapes as part of the European Landscape Convention (ELC) requirement to note landscape change. It also contributes to each of the Scotland’s Environment Strategy outcomes and provides useful context for several National Performance indicators.

It comprises a set of indicators across a range of four themes: landscape qualities, public perception, land cover and built development. Each indicator provides commentary, including analysis and evaluation, on the landscape change being measured.

The Programme takes a pragmatic approach by making use of existing national data-sets. Datasets were chosen to be relevant, objective, robust and practical. They also needed to be reasonable in terms of data collection costs and the likelihood and frequency of updates. Most indicators will be reviewed and updated on a rolling five-yearly basis.

The first phase of seven indicators was published in 2017. The aim is to have trend information in place for each of the indicators by 2024/25 after which NatureScot intends to publish a first State of Scotland’s Landscape Report.

Table of current and planned LaMP indicators:

The New Indicators

The Urban Greenspace indicator monitors the extent of urban greenspace as a percentage of urban land area. Greenspaces, such as public parks and sports areas, includes consideration of blue spaces as well, such as ponds, rivers and canals. Urban greenspaces make a significant contribution to urban biodiversity and landscapes, climate change mitigation and adaptation, our quality of life and quality of place. They contribute to improving physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as helping to attract investment and creating places where people want to live and work. Greenspaces help communities connect and engage with nature which has been shown to have a positive impact on pro-environmental and pro-conservation behaviours. The planning and management of greenspace also provides opportunities for communities to engage in local decision making and action, helping to build community cohesion, resilience and empowerment.

This indicator will help us understand changes in the extent, distribution and types of greenspace, which is essential for the strategic planning and management of Scotland’s greenspace assets to enable them to deliver better quality local landscapes.

The proportion of greenspace in urban land as of 2017 was 54% making urban Scotland more green than grey. 

Father and daughter pond dipping at the Forth & Clyde Canal, Kilpatrick. Copyright George Logan

The Local Landscape Areas (LLAs) indicator assesses the extent of land covered by local landscape designations.  LLAs are designated to safeguard and enhance the character and quality of a landscape which is valued locally or regionally.  They can be used to promote understanding and awareness of the distinctive character and special qualities of local landscapes, or to safeguard and promote important local settings for outdoor recreation and tourism.  It is the responsibility of local authorities to designate them where they are used; most but not all local authorities have LLAs.

LLAs complement the suite of national landscape designations, such as National Scenic Areas and National Parks, and act as an important tool for protecting and restoring Scotland’s rich diversity of landscapes.

In 2017, there were 502 LLAs that covered 27% (2,109,707.5ha) of the land area of Scotland.

Duddingston Loch, Edinburgh, Special Landscape Area. Copyright Glyn Satterley

The Urban Vacant and Derelict Land indicator monitors the extent of urban and vacant derelict land.  Vacant and derelict land, as registered by local authorities through the Scottish Vacant and Derelict Land Survey, is viewed as degraded but appropriate for some form of development and re-use.  Many of these sites are potentially hazardous, unattractive and detract from the quality of life of nearby communities.  However, some vacant and derelict land can be of value.  Prior to re-using vacant and derelict land consideration should be given to the nature that has colonised the sites, its landscape features which may be worth retaining and how people might have used these areas whilst they have lain undeveloped.

For many vacant and derelict sites, there are potential opportunities for long-term regeneration to improve health and wellbeing, help us tackle climate change, create more resilient communities and enable more sustainable place-making.  Using nature-based solutions to rehabilitate these sites would also help to optimise the multiple benefits delivered.

In 2017, the total area of urban vacant and derelict land in Scotland was 11,649 hectares.  The area of urban vacant and derelict land showed a net increase of 2% between 2011 and 2017.  In 2018, Scotland’s Vacant and Derelict Land Taskforce was established to realise the opportunities to transform vacant and derelict land back into productive use.

Dumbreck Marsh Local Nature Reserve previously a derelict site covered in coke and coal waste. Copyright George Logan

Next Steps

We continue to review the monitoring programme in the light of emerging needs and new technologies. Currently, we are working on a new indicator to monitor climate-related landscape change. A series of small projects is starting this year that aims to engage communities with landscape change, with several pilot project areas being developed across Scotland. Amongst other things, these projects aim to develop citizen-science local landscape change monitoring programmes to tie in with the national Landscape Monitoring Programme.

The intention is that the Programme will enable us to develop a strong strategic narrative on landscape change. This will support our approach to maximising the benefits for people, nature and climate we get from our landscapes.

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