Scottish landowner organisation appoints estate owner as new chairman
The owner of an estate in Scotland’s Angus Glens has been elected to lead the country’s largest landowner membership organisation.
Dee Ward, owner of Rottal Estate, which stretches over about 8,000 acres, has taken on the role as chairman of Scottish Land & Estates (SLE). He has been vice-chairman for the organisation for the past three years and succeeds Mark Tennant, who has been in the head post since April 2020.
Mr Ward, also chairman of Wildlife Estates Scotland, an initiative that strives to promote the best wildlife management practices, spoke about the “huge value” of rural estates following his appointment.
He cited a recent SLE-commissioned study published by economic consultancy BiGGAR Economics, which showed rural estates generate an estimated £2.4 billion GVA/year for the Scottish economy and support about 57,300 jobs – around one in ten rural jobs.
“The Scottish Government is supportive of the findings of the research and recognises the private investment made by estates that allows government to deliver on its priorities,” he said.
“Estates can deliver because they operate at scale – and this is particularly important in the race to net zero and we will look to help shape meaningful policy and legislation, which will enable rural Scotland to thrive and continue to deliver for the benefit for the whole of Scotland.
"We are fully supportive of the need for different types of landownership – private, public, community and charitable – but would urge decision-makers to think about the far-reaching consequences of the latest land reform proposals on the environment, employment and communities.”
Mr Ward said Rottal was managed in a way to integrate both traditional land use and other business interests.
He regularly advocates “trying to create the correct balance between a traditional sporting estate, food production, wildlife, biodiversity, habitat restoration and improvement, community engagement and responsible access”.
Farming, grouse shooting, deer stalking and wedding events all take place alongside hydro-electric and biomass energy generation, which SLE has described as a “great example of land sharing”.
Under Mr Ward’s leadership, the estate has also done conservation projects, including restoring and re-naturalising rivers, burns, native tree planting and wetland improvements.
Mr Ward said: “As an organisation, our members face multiple simultaneous challenges such as land reform, licensing of moorland management, uncertainty over the detail of the next generation farming subsidies, new regulation of both long and short-term housing and accommodation – and that’s without the change brought about by the pandemic and Brexit. There’s a lot to think about.
“We know the huge value that rural businesses, including farms and estates, provide to Scotland’s wellbeing economy and we are rightly viewed by government agencies as trusted delivery partners. That said, we continue to see some politicians disregard evidence-led policymaking, as highlighted by the recent changes to tenancy legislation.
"It is a real challenge, particularly for rural Scotland, when what happens in urban areas tends to dominate the agenda. We want to continue working positively with government in the years to come as delivery partners on so much of what they seek to achieve, but we will also, when need be, counter the many examples of badly drafted legislation that have come to the fore.”
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