This article assesses the potential for non-statutory planning tools, Local Landscape Designations (LLDs), to deliver rural development in Scotland. This research is motivated by new Scottish guidance which encourages designations in general, and LLDs in particular, to be more positive, strategic tools for rural development activities. LLDs were originally conceived to protect and enhance significant areas of valued countryside yet they remain neglected in contemporary planning research and policy. A critical assessment of LLDs across Scotland was undertaken using both primary and secondary data. The results reveal a significant mismatch between positive national guidance and local authority policy and planner attitudes, the latter characterised by more protectionist positions and limited strategic planning. Although case study findings in Aberdeenshire reveal that more planning applications in LLDs have conditional approvals as opposed to the wider countryside, key differences have more to do with the subjective views and priorities of planning committees rather than the efficacy of LLDs per se. The article concludes that the current conceptualisation, operation and performance of LLDs needs to be more robust, and better aligned to reflect a positive focus on community and rural development matters in order to differentiate them from wider countryside policies. However, augmenting resources to reflect the increased attention to the landscape agenda in Scotland is a core prerequisite.