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Landowners Make Major Economic Contribution to Rural Scotland

Rural estates make a major economic contribution to the Scottish economy worth several hundred million pounds per year, according to a new study published today.

The research team which undertook the study examined the activities of members of Scottish Land & Estates, which represents landowners and estates across Scotland.

Revenue generating activities by the Scottish Land & Estates’ private estate membership - which represents approximately 65% of all Scotland’s private estates - contributes £471 million (or £207 per hectare) to Scotland's output.

The research reveals that an estimated 8,114 full time jobs are linked to Scottish Land & Estates members’ estates alone, with more than 2,000 of these jobs being tourism-related.  

The study also shows that expenditure by this subset of the Scottish Land & Estates membership amounts to nearly £300 million, with the vast majority of that expenditure remaining in local economies.

Estates which responded to the survey are involved in up to 20 different business sectors, including housing provision, tourism, energy, agriculture, forestry, country sports, conservation, leisure activity, heritage, retail the provision of business premises.

The study, Economic Contribution of Landowners in Scotland, was conducted by Rural Solutions, an independent rural advisory company, and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). The full report is available at

The study was published today at a conference in Edinburgh at which John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth, gave the keynote address.

In their study the research team state: “This study provides a substantially enhanced evidence-based understanding of the economic activities, outputs and outcomes of estates in Scotland which deliver a wide range of economic, social and environmental benefits both directly in terms of their own business activities and by enabling investment and business activity by others.”
Luke Borwick, Chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “This study clearly demonstrates the very substantial contribution made by estates. They are part of the fabric of rural Scotland and estate owners want to play their part in ensuring that rural Scotland is a thriving and vibrant place to live and work. We hope this study will show that landowners are part of the solution rather than the problem.

“The study brings much needed hard evidence to a debate about landownership that is frequently not evidence-based. This is a great start to our efforts to gain a comprehensive overview of the role that estates play. The data reported in this study provides robust information on the sample and membership of Scottish Land & Estates - which is a subset of the whole sector - and further work is needed get a definitive national picture that can inform ongoing debates.”

The study was based on the activities of 277 estates ranging from smaller landholdings under 100 hectares to very large estates at more than 20,000 hectares. Key findings include:-

  • Tourism/leisure: - 148 estates involved.  £6.9m income from holiday accommodation with £6m expenditure. 97 estates operated heritage visitor attractions and 31 let historic property for others to operate. Income from attractions £8.3m with costs of £13.6m. Leisure-based businesses generated £11.3m. £5.9m of expenditure.
  • Residential property management and letting:- 235 estates with 7645 properties including 3515 at market rent and 1086 at below market rate. Total income £20.3m. Expenditure at £16.9m.
  • Forestry and woodland management:- 225 estates, making it the second most common form of land management behind residential property. Income £12.8m. Expenditure £10.5m.
  • Renewable energy:- 106 estates in the sample have invested in 123 installations which they operate for their own use and another 30 installations are hosted for third party businesses. These comprise 37 wind farms, 30 solar installations, 46 biomass systems and 40 hydro installations. Income. £7.1 million. Expenditure £7.6m. 39 installations provide direct community benefits.
  • Sporting land uses:- 186 of the sample. Income £12.4m and expenditure £16.9m. Sporting activities across the sample directly supported 565 jobs.
  • Conservation management:- 260,000 hectares across the sample with largest areas being moorland, peatland and native woodland. Income £2.8m. Expenditure £4.2m. 
  • Farming:- 162 estates have in-hand farming on 255 farms with arable, upland sheep and beef herds the main forms of farming.  397 jobs supported directly. Income £56.5m. Expenditure £42.5m. Tenant farming on 143 landholdings (totalling 339,9728ha) including 1,563 tenancies (23% of all tenancies in Scotland). Annual expenditure £10.2million, primarily on repairs and capital costs – equating to £26.58 per hectare and an average total annual expenditure per estate of £69,145. Average income amounted to £101,422.

Renewable energy, farming, tourism and leisure, forestry, sporting, conservation and commercial property were the key areas identified as representing future opportunities.


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