Landownership is much more than a tax-efficient safe haven for wealth: it is emotive, it is complicated, and it is rewarding. However, being the custodian of a Scottish estate has historically been restricted to those with deep pockets.
As we review 2020 and the increasing importance of sustainability and the Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) agenda, more buyers are looking to rural property as an opportunity.
Lockdown has fuelled a renaissance in rural living, with demand for all types of amenity and lifestyle properties. The UK Government’s net-zero commitment legislates the need to consider the effect of business and industry on the environment, and the subsequent rush for carbon sequestration capability has spurred a particular interest in forestry, especially at greenfield level, as new investors position themselves to capitalise on future opportunities.
But there is more to this than trees. Recognition of the importance of land in delivering essential environmental services continues to gain rapid momentum, and as the policymakers and regulators work out how landowners are paid for managing land for the “public good” in a post-Brexit world, and as we begin to understand the financial mechanics of carbon offsetting, the desire to own something tangible endures.
Scotland is uniquely positioned to offer investors the opportunity for large-scale land management. And with the rise of the staycation, estate owners are opening their eyes to opportunities in tourism and leisure. Furthermore, the progressive climate agenda and green recovery is supported within the renewable energy sector, including a £62 million Energy Transition Fund in North East Scotland and £10 million to help distilleries adopt low-carbon hydrogen, biomass and repurposed waste to power their operations.
With current travel restrictions, the market has been supported by domestic buyers and natural capital investors. As our international buyers are likely to return next year, and with the emergence of crowd funders wanting to give the “natural capital” opportunity to the small-scale investor, competition for the mountains, rivers and glens of Scotland could be fierce.