New type of buyer emerging for traditional Scottish sporting estates

An article from FarmingUK last week:

Demand for land for natural capital and rewilding is boosting the market for Scottish estates, according to rural property consultancy Galbraith.

The increased variety of motivations for acquiring an upland estate has stimulated the market further which was already benefiting from the booming forestry sector.

The firm says it has sold and bought estates valued in excess of £50 million over the last two years.

Demand outstrips supply by a considerable margin, as only around 15 estates will change hands in a typical year.

Average prices are increasing, alongside significant premiums being paid for hill farms and planting land.

Emma Chalmers, Partner of Galbraith said: “The interesting change is there is now a range of buyers with a variety of interests.

No longer are the buyers just interested in the more traditional sports of grouse shooting, stalking, fishing and low ground shooting.”

The sales of Glenlochay Estate in Stirlingshire and Auchavan Estate in Angus, sold in 2019 and 2020 respectively, both prompted a number of natural capital buyers to come forward alongside those who were primarily interested in traditional pursuits.

However, the sale of Kinrara Estate earlier this year saw the majority of potential buyers with interests in woodland creation and natural capital above all else.

Ms Chalmers said: “This was further experienced when a stock farm was marketed and sold privately, also earlier this year, with a natural capital buyer secured. Thus, demonstrating the changing nature of the market.”

Galbraith reports that buyers include corporations, institutions and investment houses, as well as private individuals with a variety of motivations and interests.

Private sales have increased considerably as a percentage of the overall market.

Ms Chalmers continued: “The Scottish estate has always been sought after, formerly principally driven by interest in traditional sports, together with the desire to ‘get away from it all.

Demand has always outstripped supply, with only about 10 to 15 estates offered for sale each year, either privately or on the open market.

However, we are seeing with the accelerating understanding of climate change, growing desire to offset carbon usage, both personally and by business, the need to be more visibly green or indeed by some to meet their net zero targets.”

The traditional estate, together with the hill and stock farms, are attracting increased interest from this new natural capital purchaser, she said.

Some buyers look to plant well designed productive forests, others native woodlands or indeed a diverse mixture of both, with the newer peatland restoration also now coming into the mix.

“However Natural Capital isn’t meaning the ceasing of the traditional sports as there are many buyers who look to retain some or all of the sport whilst introducing or expanding natural capital elements,” Ms Chalmers said.

Now, we have demand from buyers motivated by woodland creation, habitat restoration, traditional sports, together with other opportunities with the potential to generate an income such as installing a hydro scheme, wind turbines or perhaps creating a distillery, holiday lets or a wedding venue.

Land is being acquired by businesses to offset carbon emissions whilst providing a financial return from other parts of the estate.”

The average price for a Scottish estate continues to rise. Hill ground, until recently priced in the region of £600 to £800 per acre, can now see that figure more than double, particularly where natural capital potential exists.

With increased demand and more closing dates this has successfully helped drive sale prices to their maximum achievable level.


10 thoughts on “New type of buyer emerging for traditional Scottish sporting estates”

  1. Am I a skeptic to ponder if the intention of Govt wasn’t always to line the pockets of their land rich friends? The issue is will Natural Capital income come with long term conditions attached, will access be allowed and who will monitor public benefit? Regardless, it’s better than burnt uplands managed for high density Red Grouse bags?

  2. Visited one such site on Mull this year and found large amounts of natural regeneration coming through the moorland. Informed the new owners that this was a better way forward than planting, plastic guards, transport, nitrogen filled nursery trees, ploughing etc only to find that the poor folk could not work out their carbon! Planting is a big problem for wildlife when whole areas are planted where regen leaves areas free for harriers, owls etc. One other minus was the removal of Curlew breeding habitat! On the plus side Red Grouse have exploded on recent areas fenced off from grazing deer and sheep.

  3. From the frying pot into the fire. Sadly the only way to ensure the long term health of our environment and all in it, is by making any activities democratically accountable is for it to be publicly owned. The new owners, under declining economic circumstances might well be forced to sell the land and new owners might not have the same mind-set as those they displace, and revert to the old management practises.
    However, this is how situations like this tend to work. When the interests of wealth are threatened and large movements develop that push for change their first step is to infiltrate them. Then they employ people to lobby heavily for a watered down goal. They negotiate a deal that leaves them with as much leeway as possible. They use the same method with legislation lobbying hard for certain clauses that tend to be hidden loopholes when the interpretation of them is arrived at. Finally, when most of the activists morale is at a low ebb due to what is emerging they simply LIE and their wealth, power and influence tends to mean that most popular media sources follow their line.
    This process takes place over a number of years. To be honest I am not hopeful when I see how fractured the environmentalists are already and quite annoyed at how some organisations adopted a radical front only for it to be dropped when sufficient numbers were attracted. It’ll no happen again. The ba’ is burst, for me.

  4. Until that land is returned to public ownership, we’re just tinkering around the edges of a deeply unjust, undemocratic system which has left people disenfranchised and without a voice. Billionaires hoovering up land, even when it’s for ‘good’ reasons, is not something to celebrate at all. As George M states, too many environmental organisations are not willing to tackle this issue head on and hide behind being ‘apolitical’, even though our entire decision making process is based on political decisions.

  5. If theres a massive increase in forestry it will be a Forsinard Flow country situation all over again, rspb aquired a large forested area up there and tried to revert it back to before it was planted. Perhaps the rspb should spend some of its millions and buy a lot more land, theres plenty for sale, open to all, big lots and small lots, reverting to public ownership sound like communist thinking. Farming wouldnt work under public ownership.
    There will be winners and losers in the new sitka forests.

    1. Not sure that RSPB has millions to splash about at the moment – like many charities it has seriously suffered financially during Covid. Not sure that public ownership is “communist thinking”, huge tracts of the UK are publicly owned. In centre-right Norway virtually all land is publicly owned – farming seems to work just fine there.

    2. Do you think public libraries are communism? Do you think the NHS is communism? Do you think the Langholm community project is communism? You wouldn’t even be able to walk on these areas if it wasn’t for the mass trespasses by communists. Just like plutocrats shouldn’t be able to hoover up our land, neither should NGOs.

  6. Raymond John Clark, I’m interested why you assert that “farming wouldn[]’t work under public ownership”. Non-provocative serious question, genuinely interested.

    1. I will retract my comment, it could work, food costs may go up, but greater adherence to wildlife could be implemented, by many places that sometimes do things that they shouldnt, ie rush cutting in nesting time. Thinking more about it, food costs would certainly increase, no further comments will be made.

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