Scottish estates found to promote well-being
Scotland’s estates “bring people together”, playing a crucial role in rural communities and businesses as well as in the wider national economy, reports Matt Cross
As the Scottish government prepares a fresh round of land-reform legislation, leading experts in the rural economy have found that Scotland’s estates make a vital contribution to well-being in the countryside. The report from Biggar Economics found that Scottish estates provide land for 14,000 rural businesses and homes for 13,000 families, generate 57% of Scotland’s renewable electricity and add £2.4bn a year to Scotland’s economy.
Debates about Scotland’s estates often focus on shooting sports, but the report found less than 10% of estate income is generated by shooting and stalking, with farming, forestry, tourism and renewable energy all much more important.
While shooting was not a big contributor to income, it has its own role in the well- being economy. The report found that estates provide a vital supply of ‘social capital’, which bonds individuals and communities together.
One gamekeeper’s partner, Jade Russel, told Shooting Times: “In a remote area like the one we live and work in, a shoot day unites people like nothing else. It’s not all about the shooting, it can be as simple as two kids who become friends sharing a chocolate bar in the beating line — it all brings people together.”
Despite this, new legislation expected to be introduced to the Scottish parliament this year will place new demands on estate owners. These could include a ‘public interest test’ for large land sales and increased powers for communities considering buying out estates.
Scottish Land & Estates chairman Mark Tennant is keen to see the debate move on from arguments over lairds and an obsession with historical issues.
Mr Tennant said: “The government is looking to move ahead with further land reform and we are already seeing signs of a debate harking back to the past with little relevance to modern-day realities. We want to see any land-reform debate based on the realities of modern-day ownership and management.
“Rural estates are vibrant and progressive in their approach and see themselves as key to Scotland’s sustainable future.”