Douglas McAdam: Landowners doing best for Scotland

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IT HAS been an eventful week or so for landowners.

It would appear the state of the national football team is about the only thing for which they are not to blame.

The latest manifestation of this finger pointing was Lesley Riddoch (Perspective, 27 May) suggesting that beastly landowners were responsible for rural fuel poverty. As usual, it was a case of making the facts fit, rather than acknowledging the inconvenient truth. Landowners, like everyone else, from bungalow dwellers in cities who erect solar panels on their roofs to public and private landowners are encouraged, and therefore incentivised, by government and power companies to embrace renewable energy initiatives.

Rural fuel poverty is an important issue but blaming landowners for it is a bit like blaming the government for poor weather.

If only the finger pointing stopped there. Landowners are regularly rounded on for inhibiting tenant farming, thwarting development and not caring much about the communities of which they are an integral part.

Those making such allegations are happy to ignore facts, such as from a recent survey by Scottish Land & Estates of its members who are providing 15,000 houses for rent – many of them at affordable rents; 10,000 people are employed by members’ land-based businesses. Tenant farming is at the core of many rural businesses so why would landowners want anything other than a thriving tenant farming sector?

More than 26 per cent of members surveyed planned to invest almost £250 million in rural projects within the next two years and £820m in the next ten. Sixty-one per cent engaged in renewable energy projects and 26 per cent in community partnerships in the past five years.

Private landowners, large or small, are simply part of a pattern of land ownership which has evolved over generations. It’s time we all moved on from the “get off my land” stereotype. Landowners today play a major part in delivering real benefit for Scotland. Wider recognition of this – as opposed to ritual denigration – would be more fitting in a progressive country with its eye on the future.
• Douglas McAdam is chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates.