Sustainable upland estate management in Scotland

The Sustainable Estates for the 21st Century project was funded by the Henry Angest Foundation.

Further work on the project has also been supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, Scottish Government and Scottish Land and Estates:

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One distinctive characteristic of Scotland’s upland areas is the significant proportion of the land in private ownership. A number are owned and managed primarily for field sports; others as businesses with diverse sets of income streams, from traditional primary sectors such as field sports, agriculture, and forestry through to tourism, renewable energy, property development and the provision of both affordable rural housing and public goods (e.g., biodiversity, recreation, watershed maintenance). While many of these estates are owner-occupied, a significant number have non-resident owners.  Estate ownership and management in modern day Scotland has undergone a transformation from past centuries, with an increasing spectrum of ownership types, changing estate management styles and objectives, and revolutionary legislation.   Notably in the last two decades, a number of estates have been purchased by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with conservation, recreation and/or sustainable development interests, for example the John Muir Trust and the RSPB.

More recently, and especially since the 2003 Land Reform (Scotland) Act, estates are also being bought by their local communities.  This is one of many major policy changes affecting the land, people, and economy of the uplands of Scotland; and there are others, particularly with regard to subsidies and incentives for different land uses, often for public goods.

The four individual research projects looked at different types of estates and ask distinct research questions.  The projects were conceived and developed by each individual student, based on their own research interests and priorities, and with support from their academic supervisors (Martin Price, Alister Scott and Charles Warren) and the project's Advisory Group (representatives from Scottish Government, Scottish Land and Estates, Knoydart Foundation, Scottish Environment LINK and Cairngorms National Park Authority).

Projects 1 and 2 have studied privately-owned estates.  These projects included a major survey of private landowners in 2008, the results of which formed the basis for the research.         

Project 1 focused on the motivations of several private landowners, working with owners who are motivated by various mixes of economic, social and environmental factors.

Project 2 looked at the role of the private landowner in facilitating sustainable upland communities.  Starting from the results of the large survey, this work identified case studies of ‘good practice’ and involved a detailed investigation into the roles that private landowners can play in their communities.  

Project 3 considered large, upland, community-owned estates, with an in-depth review of the experiences of participants in community estate initiatives.  In particular, the key drivers of buyouts and estate management were identified, the impacts of wider stakeholder involvement in buyout partnerships were considered, and the operation of estate partnerships was assessed from a sustainability perspective.  

Project 4 worked on what is meant by ‘sustainable estate management’.  Including a mixed group of estate management researchers, policy makers and professionals in the research process, a practical workbook was developed that can be used to assess how an estate delivers sustainability goals.  

Detailed results can be found in 'Lairds, Land and Sustainability: Scottish perspectives on upland management' (Edinburgh University Press, 2013).