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New research finds rural estates play vital role in Scotland’s Wellbeing Economy

A landmark report on the social, economic and environmental contribution made by rural estates to communities should be a ‘game-changer’ in how landowners are viewed in Scotland.

The research on the contribution of estates to the wellbeing economy dismisses the outdated image of ‘lairds’ that so often mars the debate around land use and ownership.

A wellbeing economy is described as an economic system operating within safe environmental limits, that first and foremost serves the collective wellbeing of current and future generations.

The Scottish Government has set 11 National Outcomes to measure progress towards a wellbeing economy.

Research conducted by leading economic consultancy BiGGAR Economics has shown that rural estates contribute to at least seven of these outcomes.

The research finds estates:

  • Provide homes for 13,000 families and land for 14,000 rural enterprises.
  • Attract an estimated 5.4 million Scottish residents annually to enjoy the natural environment.
  • Account for 58% of Scotland’s renewable energy generating capacity.
  • Make a substantial contribution to Scotland’s natural capital base through agricultural, forestry and renewable energy operations.
  • Are important for carbon sequestration potential and nature-based tourism.
  • Generate an estimated £2.4 billion GVA/year for the Scottish economy and support around 57,300 jobs – around 1 in 10 rural jobs.
  • Have huge potential to help drive efforts to establish a wellbeing economy in Scotland and could be key delivery partners for a variety of related policy priorities.

The research was launched at an event in Edinburgh attended by Scottish Government Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth, Tom Arthur MSP.

Shona Glenn, of BiGGAR Economics, said: “There is clear evidence from the research that estates are agents for social, economic and environmental development and are providing the kind of private investment that will allow the Scottish Government to deliver on its priorities. The findings show that the contribution goes well beyond economic output and supporting jobs. Scotland’s estates are doing much to drive the creation of a wellbeing economy.”

Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) said it was crucial that those involved in Scotland’s land reform debate should recognise the value of estates to modern-day Scotland rather than become mired in historical arguments.

Mark Tennant, SLE chairman, said the role of estates in supporting green jobs, local businesses and economies, mental and physical wellbeing as well as stewarding Scotland’s natural capital should be recognised more widely.

He said: “This important research highlights and underlines where estates can and do deliver across many of the social, economic and environmental goals pursued by the Scottish Government. Many of the estates involved in the research are able to achieve what they do – such as peatland restoration, clean energy or innovative food production – because they operate at a large scale. Scale is important for delivery of ambitious Scottish Government targets and priorities regardless of who owns the land.

“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.”

Coverage for this announcement was achieved in a mix of broadcast, print and online media, including ITV Representing Border, STV News, The Daily Telegraph, The Press & Journal and Scottish Field.