Greenwashing leads to a Scottish land gold-rush!

A wave of speculation fuelled by corporate bodies intent on greenwashing their emissions from other business activities has led to an unsustainable gold-rush for Scotland’s land.

Andrew Connon, NFUS
Andrew Connon, NFUS

That was the view of NFU Scotland on the report produced earlier in the week which highlighted the effect which carbon offsetting programmes and high timber costs were having on the country’s land sales.

“Policy signals are driving blunt land use choices between food and forestry and attracting substantial interest beyond those that live and work on Scotland’s land,” said union vice president, Andrew Connon.

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The report highlighted that over the past year corporations, investment funds and charitable trusts had snapped up more than half of all estate sales - while many smaller units were purchased by ‘lifestyle’ buyers and at the same time there had been a big increase in the number of foreign-based purchasers.

“This is a subject we have already discussed with Scottish Government Ministers,” he said, “and it is imperative that Scottish Government re-focus on urgently developing policy that incentivises integrated land use and which rewards farming activity so that the industry continues to deliver multiple benefits for society including addressing our food security needs.”

Connon was commenting on the Rural Land Market Insights Report published by the Scottish Land Commission which highlighted a 31 per cent increase in Scottish land values and a significant increase in the number of non-farming investors.

“The report shows that land that could be used to support the UK’s fragile food security is being speculatively bought at a grossly inflated price.

“This may be a short-term gold rush driven by a bet on future carbon values, but there is a real risk that the effects are long lasting.

"I believe that this will undermine the primary function of Scotland’s land, which is to produce food.”

He said that these forces were conspiring to drive land prices way beyond the reach of most agricultural interests, especially new entrants.

The union has already lobbied Scotland’s rural affairs minister, Mairi Gougeon to look into the way in which forestry grants were handed out and to carry out an impact assessment on the effects which the huge incentives currently available to large organisations to plant blanket forestry was having on the country’s ability to feed itself.

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The importance of the effects of such sales on the wider local communities and businesses were also flagged up by Euan Ryan, public affairs lead for Scotland at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

Stating that the report was particularly helpful in illuminating the multiple factors currently driving demand, he said: “The natural environment will play a crucial role in enabling a just transition to net zero in Scotland, from the effective use of land in creating a sustainable built environment, to shepherding public and private investment into natural capital and carbon sequestration. But it is paramount that such activity works to the benefit of, and following engagement with, local communities, and in the public interest,” said Ryan.

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