Rural Exchange

Investment into Scottish Land: Motivators and Behaviours

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Investment into Scottish Land: Motivators and Behaviours

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) has published a report exploring the decision-making processes, behaviours and motivations of landowners and land managers in Scotland. This study is part of a multi-year project aimed at understanding land markets and future land use decisions, particularly in relation to financial incentives such as grants, subsidies, and natural capital payments.

What did we do?

The team, led by Lorna Pate and Ian Merrell, conducted 45 in-depth interviews with landowners and land managers from four distinct regions: the River catchments of Spey and Tweed, the Shetland Islands, and the Galloway and South Ayrshire Biosphere Reserve.

Interviews were conducted with a wide range of different landowners to reflect the diverse nature of landownership in Scotland.

The landownership/ land management typology

The team developed a landowner typology, a way of organising interviewees into different categories based on shared characteristics.

First this considers how land use decisions are reached: individual (sometimes as a family unit) or group (including companies, institutions, and private trusts, the public sector, third sector organisations and charitable trusts, community owned land and elements of crofting).

The typology then considers landowner/land manager motivations and behaviours resulting in 5 categories:

  • Financial gain through development/ land use change – motivated by maximising income, this group includes natural capital buyers, commercially focused estates, developers, energy producers/storers, commercial foresters, and investors.
  • Self-serving motivations – this group prioritises personal interests over financial gain, comprising philanthropic environmentalists, family-run estates (custodians), private amenity/leisure, and crofters driven by identity and culture.
  • Food producers – focused on maintaining their primary business of food production, this diverse group includes various types of farmers.
  • Public (environmental) goals – managing land for public goods like nature conservation, clean air, and flood defenses, this group includes land managed for conservation or scientific purposes and for public amenity.
  • Locally defined goals – motivated by local factors, this category includes community-owned lands managed for social gains and community maintenance.

Recommendations and Future Directions

The personas are a valuable tool for policymakers to understand the different dynamics among Scotland's landowners, shedding light on the motivations and behaviours underlying land use decisions.

However, it is crucial to recognise that these generalisations should not overshadow the diverse behaviours and motivations at the individual level, influenced by the land itself and personal beliefs, values and opinions.

The report is part of ongoing research, with further analyses and reports planned in the coming years. These future studies will continue to refine our understanding of land use decision-making and investment strategies, aiding in the development of more effective policies and support systems for Scotland's landowners.

You can read the report in full here.


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