Public appointment: Chair and Land Commissioners appointed to the Scottish Land Commission

Public appointments news release

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The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands today announced the appointments of Michael Russell as Chair and Land Commissioner and of Deborah Roberts and Craig MacKenzie as Land Commissioners of the Scottish Land Commission.


Michael Russell served as a Scottish Government Minister and Member of the Scottish Parliament. He has had a long term involvement with land reform having been Environment Minister from 2007-2009, a member of the Scottish Parliament Committee which scrutinised the Land Reform Bill in 2015 and an MSP for the South of Scotland Region before being elected in 2011 to serve the constituency of Argyll and Bute where he has lived since 1992. He retired from representational politics in 2021, but was SNP President until 2023. He is the author of seven books and has worked as a columnist and commentator as well as a television producer and director. He was the founder of the Celtic Media Festival, now in its 45th year, was  part time Professor in Scottish Culture and Governance at the University of Glasgow (where he is now an Honorary Professor in the College of Arts & Humanities) and is  the trustee of a number of charities.

Land Commissioners

Deborah Roberts is the Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Science at the James Hutton Institute. This requires understanding the external pressures on Scotland's land and identifying and prioritising strategies so as to best support economic, policy and social needs through research. She trained as an agricultural economist and, prior to her current role, she led the Institute’s social science department. Her personal research has focussed on understanding how land sector policies affect economic development and social wellbeing in rural areas with much of her work focussed on Scotland. She holds an Honorary Chair in Real Estate at the University of Aberdeen. Deborah Roberts is a Director of ClimateXChange, Scotland's Centre of Expertise on Climate Change, a member of the SEFARI Directors Executive Committee, a member of the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital steering group, and is President Elect of the Agricultural Economics Society.

Dr Craig MacKenzie, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh Business School, brings over 20 years of experience in investment management, combining financial and sustainable investment roles. In his most recent position, he led strategic asset allocation and developed climate solutions and natural capital investment funds. Over his career, he has shaped good practice standards on corporate environmental and social responsibility, serving on advisory boards for the Global Reporting Initiative, the PRI and FTSE. As an academic, he founded the Centre for Business and Climate Change (now BCCaS) at the University of Edinburgh and helped launch carbon management and climate finance MSc programs. He has a PhD in behavioural finance and has published on sustainability and corporate responsibility.


These appointments will be for 5 years and will run from 01 February 2024 to 31 February 2029.

These appointments are regulated by the Ethical Standards Commissioner.


Michael Russell’s appointment is part-time and attracts a remuneration of £279.52 per day for a time commitment of 48 days per financial year.

Deborah Roberts and Craig MacKenzie’s appointments are part-time and attract a remuneration of £224.48 per day for a time commitment of 24 days per financial year.

Other ministerial appointments

Michael Russell, Deborah Roberts and Craig MacKenzie do not hold any other public appointments.

Political activity

All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process.  However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees’ political activity within the last five years (if there is any to be declared) to be made public.   

Michael Russell was MSP for Argyll and Bute from 2011 – 2021 and a Member of the SNP from 1974 – 2023. He was Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations from 2018 – 2020 and Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, Europe and External Affairs from 2020 – 2021. Michael Russell was formerly President of the SNP from 2020 – 2023.

Deborah Roberts and Craig MacKenzie have had no political activity within the last five years.


The Scottish Land Commission is an executive non-departmental public body established on 1 April 2017 by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016. The Commission is led by a Board of Commissioners comprised of five Land Commissioners and the Tenant Farming Commissioner, who are appointed by Scottish Ministers. The Board of Commissioners was chaired, until 31 January 2024, by Andrew Thin, and from 1 February 2024 by Michael Russell, and is supported by a team of staff led by Hamish Trench, the Chief Executive.

The role of the Scottish Land Commission is to advise Scottish Ministers on an ongoing programme of land reform. In addition, it provides leadership for change in culture and practice, conducting a programme of engagement, producing guidance and supporting good practice in land ownership, management and use. The Tenant Farming Commissioner also has a range of statutory powers and has a vital role in improving relationships between tenants and landlords.

The Commission published their Strategic Plan 2023 to 2026, in September 2023, which sets out their key priorities over the next three years with a focus on people, power and prosperity. The Strategic Plan reflects the commitments on land reform in successive Programmes for Government, is consistent with the Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement, and supports work to deliver a green and inclusive economy and meet climate change targets.

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