Who Owns Scotland?
Social Land Ownership
Land Reform Guidance
Commonweal Papers
Networks of Agents
Training of Trainers



Professor Bryan MacGregor
Department of Land Economy, University of Aberdeen

Moness Country Club, Aberfeldy, 24 September 1993


1.1 Land tenure and land use
1.2 Other issues
1.3 The need for research
2.1 Individual and social rights
2.2 Government intervention
2.3 Contractual restrictions
2.4 Changes to tenure systems
3.1 Classifying land policy
3.2 The objectives of land policy
3.3 Owner motivation
3.4 Incentives and subsidies
3.5 Voluntarism and public policy
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Who Owns Scotland?
4.3 Accountability
4.4 Access
4.5 Employment
4.6 Recent and future developments


It is indeed a privilege to have been asked to deliver the first John McEwen Memorial Lecture; it is also a daunting task given the topic and also the audience, whose individual specialist expertise far exceeds my own in most, if not all, of the topics I intend to cover.

It should, therefore, come as no surprise that I was originally reluctant to accept the offer from the Organising Committee and that it took several hours of persuasion to convince me that I might have something to offer. And I stress might: it will for you to judge whether my initial judgement was correct or whether Robin Callander had it right all along.

It is some time since the main focus of my research was on the relationship between land tenure and economic development and even then my interests were mainly in the Highlands. My comments are intended to cover the whole of rural Scotland; if I appear to focus on the Highlands and the land use debates there, it is in part by accident rather than design, but in part because the Highlands often offers the best and most extreme illustrations of the general issues and problems.

In preparing this lecture I have sought inputs and comments from a wide range of organisations and individuals. I must thank them all for their help and support. If they recognise their input, I am happy to acknowledge it; if they feel it has been distorted, misrepresented or ignored, I accept all blame.

My approach has been to avoid, as much as possible, detailed specifics of one locality or one dimension of the issue; partly to avoid exposing my lack of detailed knowledge on some of the specifics but also to try to focus later discussion on principles and themes rather than detail.

My lecture title is 'Land tenure in Scotland'. By tenure, I mean the legal framework within which individuals hold land and are able to make contracts with others concerning that land. Throughout, I wish to draw a distinction between the system of tenure and the motivations of those who hold land. I will focus initially on land tenure and return later to motivation.

My initial proposition is simple. Land tenure systems are not absolute, rather they are socially and historically constructed: the fact that the Scottish system is different from the English system seems sufficient to confirm this point. Tenure systems have adapted or have been adapted to meet society's changing requirements.

Thus, if a land tenure system is unable to deliver required policy outcomes or to meet changing social and economic needs, it can and should be adapted. Further, I wish to suggest that the relationship between land tenure and land use outcomes is a valid and important area for research.

I will begin by considering the relationships between land tenure and land use. I will then consider concepts of ownership and rights in land and show that such rights have always been restricted and the principles of restriction or expropriation of rights have been widely accepted; although different labels may have been used.

I will then return to the relationship between land tenure, land use and land policy, focusing particularly on the use of incentives, owner motivation and voluntarism. Finally, I will consider a selection of issues related to land tenure, land use and land policy.



1.1 Land tenure and land use

I start from the self-evident proposition that there are links between land tenure and land use. The current government appears to accept the importance of the link: the sale of forestry land to the private sector is supposed to have beneficial land use outcomes. It is already having an impact on access.

Land use outcomes are based on decisions made by land holders within the context of the land tenure system. Government policies act through the agency of the land holders to influence land use outcomes. The link between policy and land use is complex and the importance of the individual decision-maker varies according to the specific land use, the financial circumstances and the scale of aggregation used in the analysis.

At the aggregate national scale, where there are many land holders, and for uses where rational economic behaviour might be expected, the actions of individual land holders are of lesser importance and techniques such as econometric modelling have value. In contrast, if factors other than economic rational are important, if there is a small number of land holders, or if more localised impacts are being considered, the role of the individual land holder becomes crucial in understanding land use outcomes.

In the latter context, it is not possible to understand land use outcomes and the impact of policy unless we understand and model the consequences of both the pattern and structure of tenure, and the motivations of land holders.

This is not to deny the importance of the economic, social and political background: these form the context within which individual agents make their decisions. This approach, known as structure and agency, of considering both the context, the structure, and the individual decision-makers, the agents, has developed in social theory and more recently in the study of urban land development.

The owners of holdings of different sizes and quality have different motivations and make different labour and capital inputs with differing effects for use intensity, employment and conservation. This is illustrated by work carried out in North East Scotland (Livingstone, unpublished). Larger traditionally managed multi-use estates, with more varied natural resources, produced enhanced conservation, when compared to a system of entrepreneurial farmers which resulted from the break-up of an estate. Neither can be considered to be a better system without reference to objectives: but they produce different land use outcomes.

In Scotland, 80 per cent of private land is held by 4,000 owners, that is 0.08 per cent of the population. It is barely plausible to contend that other distributions of ownership would not produce different land use outcomes. This is not to suggest that the current system is not the most efficient in terms of either policy objectives or social optima, merely that this is not an obvious conclusion.

1.2 Other issues

Associated with the link between land tenure and land use are other important links.

Land policy implementation is affected by the land tenure system but there is also another important link: land policy may affect the structure of tenure. Policy affects the relative attractiveness of particular uses and the economic viability of land holdings of different sizes.

For example, differential subsidies influence decisions by estates between holding land in-hand for farming or forestry, and letting it for agriculture; inheritance tax also influences the bringing of land in-hand; and agricultural tenancy legislation has led to the use of partnerships for fixed periods.

The impact of the land tenure system goes far beyond land use. It influences the size and distribution of an area's population; the labour skills and the entrepreneurial experiences of the population; access to employment and thus migration; access to housing; access to land to build new houses; the social structure; and the distribution of power and influence. In many areas of rural Scotland, large land owners play a crucial role in local development: they are the rural planners.

1.3 The need for research

The relationship between land tenure and land use will become more important as both policy structures, and the relative importance of land uses, change: as we move away from agriculture and towards conservation and access; as the shift continues in forestry from public to private sector. It is essential that we understand how land tenure can influence policy outcomes: particularly if the private sector is to have a greater role in rural Scotland.

Fourteen years of Conservative government have pushed the issue of Scottish land tenure from the immediate political agenda; although I would not claim that it has been high up on any party's agenda for many years. It seems to have become a taboo subject in Scotland but the underlying tensions produced by the current pattern of ownership and tenure have been generating debates on management and access. It is time to re-assert the importance of an understanding of the links between land tenure and land use outcomes.

Land tenure should be a legitimate and important area of study for those with an interest in the outcomes of land policy. My contention is that land tenure can be studied rationally and that such study is central to an understanding of the current and future effectiveness of land policy.

However, I come with no answers to the questions I shall pose, and with no agenda for change, either hidden or open. My objective is that we should all re-explore our current views on which policy instruments are acceptable and which are not; that we should reconsider our current stances and be aware of possible inconsistencies and contradictions; that we should focus on the objectives of policy. I may come with no answers but I do come with an appeal for funding for this type of research in Scotland to help find some of the answers.

Such research can help explain the problems and successes of past and current policy and can also make more effective the development of policy for the future. It will not produce policy, that ultimately should depend on the objectives of the policy-makers, but it should make the policy-making process more effective.

It will allow policy instruments to be chosen which are most appropriate given the opportunities and constraints created by the motivations of owners, and the constraints within which private decisions are made.

Of course, none of what I have said so far should be taken to suggest that research has not been undertaken but, given the vast public investment in rural land use, it remains an under-researched topic. It does not seem unreasonable to suggest that public sector agencies have been reluctant to fund such research and have treated it as a taboo subject.



2.1 Individual and social rights

I would like now to address the issue of rights in land.

It is possible to identify two perspectives on the role of land ownership in modern society. The first might be termed the individual rights perspective. In this, land ownership is seen as giving exclusive rights: the right to use and enjoy the land as one chooses; and the right to dispose of all or some of the rights; or pass these on to heirs.

In contrast to this is a social rights perspective in which a person cannot own property but can only hold it at the pleasure of 'society', however that is defined.

Under the private property concept, an owner has the right to use and enjoy his or her land so long as s/he does not injure others. In contrast, under the social property concept, government has the power to regulate or forbid uses and mandate positive action to force alternative uses.

This latter perspective is typified by the report of the US Task Force on Land Use Control, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation ('The use of land: a citizens' policy guide to urban growth', 1973):

'We need to change the policy of allowing property owners to think they can do what they want with their land merely because it's theirs. Owners must come to realise that whatever rights they have in land they happen to own are rights accorded to them by society, not rights which they grudgingly permit society to abridge.'

The names used for these concepts of ownership might generate an immediate preference depending on our politics; more careful consideration should, I believe, mean that all present today would accept the social property concept. No one would seriously dispute the right of, and need for, government to intervene: even it were only in extreme circumstances such as time of war. For example, the government took powers to require sheep stocking of Highland sporting estates during the Second World War. Any disagreement, therefore, would be on the extent to which governments should intervene and in which circumstances.

Most land holders accept that landownership carries with it obligations as well as rights and the notion of stewardship has developed. In effect, this is an acknowledgement of social rights in land. The only point of debate might be whether there is a need for compulsion in the implementation of these social rights or whether a voluntary approach is sufficient: a point to which I shall return.

2.2 Government intervention

Thus, while any system of land tenure creates rights for individual owners, these are circumscribed by the rights of society. Government intervention takes different forms in different contexts and at different times but the justification is invariably that of the public interest, leaving aside the difficulty of defining such a concept.

Central government introduced compulsory purchase powers to deal with the expansion of railways in the mid nineteenth century, justified by the view that an individual land holder should not have the rights to prevent socially desirable economic development. Of course, an alternative explanation is that railway owners and developers were more powerful than the landowners, but this does not negate the point, indeed it may help explain the reluctance of governments to intervene in some circumstances but not in others.

Compulsory purchase is now common place in road building and for land assembly for city centre redevelopments and is justified by an appeal to social rights over individual rights. It is not too much of a leap of logic to suggest that compulsory purchase of rural land could be justified on the same grounds if social rights were to prevail.

Government also intervenes, through the planning system, to control development. In effect, the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act of 1947 nationalised development rights. Any use or operation which is defined as development requires permission which may either be granted automatically or require express permission.

Compulsory purchase was, and is, based on compensation to ensure that the land holder is no worse off financially. Such compensation applies only when all rights are acquired. In contrast, in the UK, there is no compensation for loss of some rights by the restriction of development through the failure to grant planning permission (unless the land becomes 'incapable of reasonably beneficial use').

Most extensive rural land uses do not fall within the statutory definition of development and so do not require planning permission. Accordingly, there can be compensation for failure to permit agriculture or forestry. There are, therefore, inconsistencies between urban and rural areas. Nonetheless, the basic principle holds that government may prevent development without having to pay compensation.

The extension of the definition of development to include extensive rural land uses would permit a different perspective on the payment of compensation for the restriction of developments in the interests of conservation. It does seem strange that rural land holders should be compensated by society for not doing something which would have been uneconomic without a public subsidy.

In summary, the freedom of action of individual land holders is circumscribed by the public interest. It is necessary to consider the impact on wider society of freedom of action. Freedom, in the sense of the freedom of use for a few thousand land holders has little meaning if it has substantial negative consequences for the vast majority.

2.3 Contractual restrictions

Government also intervenes to control the form of contractual relationship which owners are able to enter with tenants, partners and so on. Such contracts divide the rights between the parties to the contract. Thus, it is appropriate to consider all land holders as the owners of a parcel of rights which are defined by law. There are no absolute rights associated with any form of holding.

In this context, and particularly as multi-use estates may run different activities separately and perhaps with different ownerships, we may need to rethink the notion of an estate as the basic land holding unit.

Thus, rights in land are restricted by government action or by agreement. The form which the restrictions and rights take varies over time and from society to society. Rights are socially and historically constructed: there is no absolute and best form of tenure, a point I now wish to consider.

2.4 Changes to tenure systems

As capitalism developed, land became a commodity to be used as part of the production process, to be bought and sold for use and development or for investment. Different types of economic system and different types of productive need have meant that tenure has had to change to accommodate changing requirements. Land tenure systems are not fixed: they change or are changed to meet changing requirements.

Sometimes the change is the result of social and economic pressures, such as the creation of sheep farms in the Highlands in the eighteenth century; sometimes it is by government intervention such as the crofting and agricultural holdings legislation. More recently, the government has intervened in housing tenure, both in the public and private sectors, and in agricultural tenancies.

Some systems are able to adapt more quickly than others; some societies have governments which are more able or willing to intervene when and if necessary. Change can be facilitated or prevented by the power structures in society and by the influence of different groups over a government's legislative programme.

There is no best system in isolation and in the abstract; land tenure systems differ and are not created in isolation: they are historically and socially contingent. We need to see the current system as just another snapshot in time rather than a perfect and unchangeable system; it is the product of past economics, previous tenure systems and legislation; and of the power structure of the society as much as geography. Tenure systems may outlast their value and inhibit change.

The present structure of tenure in rural Scotland is the interaction of complex historical and economic forces overlaid with government intervention on a large scale and influenced by the varying power of the different interest groups over time. There is no reason to assume that it is the best for contemporary society or even that it is able to deliver desired policy objectives. Indeed, many of the residual aspects of feudalism might suggest urgent change is required.

Restrictions in agricultural leases have hindered the development of non-agricultural activities on farms, despite such diversification being favoured in recent policy. There is currently a widespread desire for change in agricultural holdings legislation. The SLF has called for 'A more flexible framework for agricultural holdings..' and Rural Forum has advocated legislative changes to create opportunities for tenant forestry. The issue is likely to become more important as diversification from agriculture increases.



3.1 Classifying land policy

I would like now to turn to land use, land tenure and policy.

Broadly speaking, land policy instruments can be divided into four types which may be used separately or in combination. These are: the removal of rights (such as compulsory purchase); restriction of rights by compulsion (such as planning controls); financial incentives (such as grants and loans which can apply either to encourage a use or to discourage one); restriction of rights by agreement; and advice, encouragement or demonstration.

Rural land policy tends to focus on incentives and agreement. This is in contrast to urban land policy which focuses on controls. In urban areas development rights have been nationalised and there is generally no compensation for the refusal of a development application. Typically in rural areas, and unlike urban areas, restriction of rights carries with it compensation. Thus, the operation of land policy in rural areas is rather different from urban areas.

3.2 The objectives of land policy

The ultimate objective of land policy is to influence the way in which land is used. Accordingly, the policy mechanisms must reflect an understanding of the factors and processes which combine to influence land use outcomes. This implies consideration of issues such as:

The role played by land in different areas of economic and social activity, in particular, the relationship between land tenure, land use and economic development.

The way in which the demands and needs for land are mediated by those influencing or controlling the supply of land, both public and private interests.

The degree to which the attitudes and behaviour of those actively involved in the land market and in development, whether public or private agencies, are influenced by forms of government intervention aimed at managing the economy at the national, regional and local level.

Central to this are questions about: who has control of, and access to, the land resources; the aspirations and motivations of those having and seeking access to land resources; and the criteria or constraints which influence changing patterns of access. (Barrett and Healey, 1985)

In other words, both the system of land tenure and motivations are central to an understanding of the effectiveness of policy instruments. In a system which depends so much on incentives and voluntarism, it is clearly important to understand the motivation and objectives of land holders and how these are influenced by policy. For, while the form and pattern of tenure may remain unchanged, the occupiers may change.

3.3 Owner motivation

Financial incentives and compensation for voluntary actions are designed to have an impact on land use through altering the decisions of landholders. Thus, the type of land holder, their rights and personal circumstances are not unproblematic and passive variables in land use outcomes. Both tenure and owner motivation are important.

The notion of land holders as profit maximisers has been widely challenged. Simon (1957) argued that individuals do not have perfect knowledge and so will accept satisfactory outcomes, that is, they are satisfiers. Gasson (1973) and Ilbery (1983) have argued that non-economic factors are important in explaining farmers' business behaviour. In Spain, Maas (1983) examined different structures of ownership and the impact of owner motivations on land use outcomes.

Motivations are typically a complex combination of income generation; capital growth; other financial considerations; personal enjoyment; duty to the local community; social status; stewardship and inheritance. The relative importance of these will vary from individual to individual, from society to society and from period to period, according to factors such as the rights they hold, the external economic and social environment, personal circumstances, and the size and quality of holdings.

There is no reason to presume that financial criteria will dominate in every case and that all individuals will respond to incentives. Indeed, in many areas where financial returns are low, and some combination of non financial motivations appears to dominate, there is every reason to suggest that policies based on incentives are unlikely to be effective.

Many land holdings, whether estates or crofts, are held as holiday homes, predominantly for personal enjoyment and uninfluenced by the need to generate livelihood income. These owners have wealth beyond the land holding and are able and willing to subsidise their holdings, thus providing a private subsidy to the areas.

Investment, such as in a house or lodge modernisation, may generate benefits to the owner but may not be required to generate a return in terms of income. Such motives may constrain land development and wider economic development whether in crofting townships or large estates. On the other hand, in some areas, there may be important conservation gains.

Wealthy individuals are able and willing to pay to consume the non financial aspects of land ownership. In doing so, they place a value on land which far exceeds its value in terms of income generation. This can be regarded as rational economic behaviour only if they expect that there will be others able and willing to pay for the non financial aspects in the future and, thus, that their capital will be protected or enhanced. Such a market in land inhibits those wishing to acquire land to generate financial returns and livelihood.

One reason for the recent fall in estate prices has been the general problems of the economy and the decrease in wealthy individuals, such as property company owners and Lloyds names, able and willing to subsidise rural land uses.

While some land holdings are never sold, others exchange hands every twenty or thirty years and, possibly, bring in new types of owners with differing motivations. In some periods, current land uses attract owners who reinforce the pattern of land use; at other times the new owners bring change. At present, there is growing evidence of a new type of owner of larger holdings whose priorities are conservation rather than sporting.

3.4 Incentives and subsidies

Rural land uses are subsidised by the public and private sectors. The individual private land holder is able to control land use and ensure the effectiveness of the private subsidy in achieving desired objectives. In contrast, control over public subsidies is limited and the returns to society less easy to identify.

Much of current policy is based on incentives: public subsidy to create desired land uses and prevent undesired uses. Indeed, the land uses over much of upland Scotland are the result of the competition between different forms of subsidy. For many uses, a grant for using or not using land has replaced market income as the motive force in land use decisions.

The competition between uses is currently mediated through the motivations of those who control the land. It is hoped that the incentives to individual land holders will alter the decisions they make. There are, however, other factors which influence decisions, such as the size of holding, the quality of the land, the personal circumstances of holders, and their motivations. These all interact in a complex way to produce land use outcomes.

There is surely a need for a coherent overall strategy from government for rural land uses. The government already intervenes in the markets with no clear links to intended land use outcomes. This contrasts with recent changes in urban planning which strengthen strategic guidance in England and Wales and introduce the primacy of the development plan.

For policy to be effective we need to understand the influence of both the tenure system and owner motivation. As the SLF put it in its response to the Cairngorm Working Party Report (p17):

'For the strategy to be properly implemented, there will need to be financial incentives which are adequately funded and carefully tailored to facilitate the putting into place of positive management practices.'

Public subsidies for fundamentally non economic uses are justified in terms of social objectives such as: to retain population; to maintain particular land uses; to protect landscape and environment; to obtain public access. If subsides are needed, it is not unreasonable to ask questions such as:

bulletAre they effective?
bulletWould alternative instruments such as land use controls be more effective?
bulletWhy should rural land holders receive subsidies for refusal of development when their urban counterparts do not?
bulletWhat does the public get in return for the subsidies?

Fundamentally all of these questions involve considerations of the motivations of land holders; of the land tenure system; of its effectiveness for contemporary requirements; and its impact on the effectiveness of policy instruments.

3.5 Voluntarism and public policy

Voluntarism works where there is a coincidence of public and private objectives, if there is not it can lead to conflict and undesirable land use outcomes. If owners are interested in the use of their land for private enjoyment rather than agriculture or forestry, the resultant land use can have conservation benefits but may also conflict with development and access for the public Few would argue for the voluntary principle in all aspects of rural land use. The following is a quote from the SLF response to the report of the Cairngorms Working Party:

'the present requirement for the unanimous approval of riparian owners for any new by-laws is inhibiting controls which are desired by the community as a whole. We would not wish to see a situation where the interests of riparian owners could be ill ridden by others with no responsibility for conservation and management of the water. Nevertheless consideration should be given to a regime similar to the safeguards in the planning system. Proposals for by-laws should be drafted by local authorities. Consultation with riparian owners should be mandatory but not overriding. Riparian owners should then have the right of appeal to the Secretary of State if they wish to challenge the introduction of a by-law.' (p12)

Substitute land for riparian, and control for by-law, and this is a succinct argument for the need for controls when voluntarism in rural land use is ineffective. It is not too much of a leap of logic to use the above to argue in favour of a single board of control for the Cairngorms. Indeed, there have been press reports that World Heritage Site status will be denied to the Cairngorm area because the proposed management agreements are considered insufficient and likely to be ineffective.

Some voluntarist policies are developing into controls with none of the rights of appeal. Very little tree planting now takes place without grants. The consultation process and indicative forestry strategies together mean substantial controls over planting with grants. In effect, these strategies may develop into de facto land use plans for forestry but with none of the rights to appeal of the land use planning system. In such circumstances, it would seem to be to the advantage of land holders to accept explicit planning controls and so create rights of appeal. It would also permit more direct public involvement in the process.

For those who share the objectives of public policy, it is difficult to see why they should oppose 'compulsion' and favour 'voluntarism'. Only those who oppose the objectives and wish to use 'voluntarism' as a way of avoiding an undesired outcome should oppose controls. In considering the appropriateness of policy, it is important not to lose sight of objectives.



4.1 Introduction

I want to finish by addressing some issues which did not seem to fit neatly into the rest of the lecture.

4.2 Who Owns Scotland?

The pattern of ownership remains no more accessible to the public and to policy-makers than it was when John McEwen first published Who Owns Scotland? based on Roger Millman's research. Quite apart from the basic need for such information in a democracy, a knowledge of the changing pattern of ownership is essential if we are to understand the impact of policy on tenure, and tenure on policy.

The recent IACS exercise conducted by the Scottish Office Agriculture and Forestry Department has the potential to give a unique insight into the pattern of land occupancy in Scotland. With other sources and modern technology, it could help to provide a picture of the pattern of ownership. Work done by the Department of Geography at the University of Aberdeen, and funded by the Countryside Commission for Scotland, has confirmed the feasibility of collecting and updating ownership information at a very small fraction of the cost of the subsidies for rural land uses.

4.3 Accountability

Rural land use policy has for many years been the responsibility of government-appointed bodies, sometimes operating in apparent opposition to each other and not accountable to local communities.

The creation of the Local Enterprise Companies (LECs), with their local remits, adds a new dimension. The LECs are likely to play an important role in recreation and tourist development which is likely to grow in importance in many rural areas. Rural land uses are an integral part of the recreation and tourism resource in these areas.

Yet policy is initiated by appointees rather than by local representation. In future, it is possible that alliances may form between land holders and local communities in an attempt to gain greater control of their own destinies from central government and its local appointees.

4.4 Access

Access for the public is one of the possible social benefits of the subsidies to rural land uses.

On one hand, as the public subsidises most rural land holders, it is reasonable to expect something in return: why should the public have to pay for access?

On the other hand, access is a public good and it could be considered unreasonable to expect land holders to offer it for nothing in return. Which of us would be prepared to allow our gardens to be used as a short cut for the general public without some sort of compensation, even if we receive a mortgage interest subsidy through tax relief?

The privatisation of Forestry Commission land and the loss of public access has led to an increased tension between these views.

There can often be substantial costs in providing and maintaining footpaths. Demand for access tends to be concentrated in particular locations rather than more generally, so those land holders most affected could argue for enhanced subsidies. There are now payments for access to hills and woodlands.

Access also creates genuine management problems for livestock and forestry which need to be considered. In such cases access cannot be uncontrolled or unchannelled. On the other hand, interference with exclusive sport or personal enjoyment over thousands of acres should receive rather less sympathy.

There is also inheritance tax relief for conservation and access: but do people know who receives the relief and what the public is supposed to receive in return? Should such information not be made publicly available to allow the public to make use of the agreed public access?

4.5 Employment

If our interests are in employment creation in the countryside, we should not expect that extensive land holdings offer great opportunities.

The growth of the use of professional managers for estates has often meant the loss of local employment of both the manager and the accounting function which can be undertaken centrally and electronically.

It is also possible that more rational economic management of estates would result in employment loss or at best only slight increase. Work in North West Sutherland (MacGregor, 1988, 1993) suggested that only 15 jobs could be created by an increase in economic activity on all estates to levels on the most commercially run. There would also be environmental consequences.

Nor should we under any illusions about the precarious future financial base of smaller holdings based on agriculture. Recent figures suggest that there has been an increase in the number of part time farmers. Without research we cannot know the reasons or the economic, social and environmental consequences.

Multiple-occupation may have some attractions but requires alternative employment. Experiments such as lowland crofting may offer an alternative within the existing tenure system for parts of rural Scotland. There is also a case to be made for a more flexible system which allows short term sub-leasing and off farm employment for the tenant.

Forestry is likely to have an increasing conservation role in rural Scotland but does it offer employment opportunities? Are there possibilities for more strategic organisation of forestry activities so that, rather than travelling labour gangs, full-time employment can be sustained within local areas?

This all suggests more attention is also required to processing in the countryside particularly where transport costs and the scope for added value would make this attractive: but there are no easy solutions.

4.6 Recent and future developments

Finally, a number of recent and possible developments require mention as they illustrate change, albeit on a small scale.

The financial difficulties being experienced by many sporting estates have created opportunities for groups with other interests to enter the market. Both local crofter groups and environmental organisations have been able to acquire estates so that there is now some possibility of managing large tracts according to sound ecological principles. There are, nonetheless, concerns that groups such as the RSPB, with its narrow focus and large and distant urban membership, will be no more sympathetic to the economic and social needs of Highland communities than the traditional absentee owner.

There are also signs of better relationships and alliances between environmental groups and crofting communities to further common objectives.

There is an acceptance that something must be done about excessive deer numbers.

There have been positive developments in forestry with moves towards crofter forestry and regional indicative forestry strategies which display a progressive approach to forestry, embracing environmental and social as well as economic needs.

There is also an increasing interest in native woodland regeneration and ecological restoration.



It is time to re-assert the importance of an understanding of the links between land tenure, motivations and land use outcomes. Land tenure and motivations are not passive variables. They are important in determining land use outcomes whether development or conservation.

Land tenure should be a legitimate and important area of study for those with an interest in the outcomes of land policy. It can be studied rationally and such study is central to an understanding of the current and future effectiveness of land policy. An important aspect of such research is to establish 'Who Owns Scotland.

We cannot reasonably expect to construct effective policies for the use and management of the land resource of rural Scotland if we do not understand the role played by the land tenure system and the motivations of land holders.

Land tenure systems are not absolute; there is no best system in isolation and in the abstract. Rather, they are historically and socially contingent and have adapted or been adapted to meet society's changing requirements. As economic demands and society's objectives change over time, tenure should also change. Tenure systems may outlast their value and inhibit change.

We need to see the current system as just another snapshot in time rather than a perfect and unchangeable system; it is the product of past economics, previous tenure systems and legislation; and of the power structure of the society as much as geography. And it is producing problems.

Despite the obvious importance of the relationships between land use, land tenure and owner motivation, it remains an under-researched topic. Despite the vast public subsidies for rural land uses, public sector agencies have been reluctant to fund such research and have treated it as a taboo subject.

It is essential that we remove the taboo and that more research is undertaken to enable the development of effective policy instruments based on an understanding of opportunities and constraints imposed by the tenure system and the motivations of owners.



bulletBarrett, S and Healey, P (1985) Priorities for research in land policy, pp347-367 in Barrett, S and Healey, P (eds) Land policy: problems and alternatives, Gower, Aldershot.
bulletGasson, R (1973) Goals and values of farmers, Journal of Agricultural Economics, 24, 521-42.
bulletIlbery, B W (1983) Goals and values of hop farmers, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 8, 329-41.
bulletLivingstone, L (1990) (unpublished) Study in Department of Land Economy, University of Aberdeen.
bulletMaas, J H M (1983) The behaviour of landowners as an explanation of the regional differences in agriculture: latifundists in Sevilla and Cordoba (Spain), Tijdschrift voor Econ. en Soc. Geografie, 74, 87-95.
bulletMacGregor, B D (1988) Owner motivation and land use on landed estates in the north-west Highlands of Scotland, Journal of Rural Studies, 4(4), 389-404.
bulletMacGregor, B D (1993) Owner motivation and land use change in North-West Sutherland, Report to the Worldwide Fund for Nature, Department of Land Economy, University of Aberdeen.
bulletTask Force on Land Use Control (1973) The use of land: a citizens' policy guide to urban growth.
bulletRural Forum (1991) Tenants and trees: a discussion paper on the rights of agricultural tenants in Scotland with particular reference to forestry, Rural Forum Scotland, Perth.
bulletScottish Landowners' Federation (1993) SLF response to the report of the Cairngorms Working Party, SLF, Edinburgh.
bulletSimon, H A (1957) Models of man: social and rational, Wiley, New York.