Green land investment in rural Scotland: social and economic impacts

Outlines the findings of research into the range of potential social and economic impacts relating to new forms of green land investment in rural Scotland.


Armstrong, R. (2022) ‘The great green land grab’, Wicked Leeks, 30 May. Available at: (Last updated: 30.5.22; Accessed: 15.11.22).

Atkinson, G. and Ovando, P. (2022) ‘Distributional Issues in Natural Capital Accounting: An Application to Land Ownership and Ecosystem Services in Scotland’, Environmental and Resource Economics, 81(2), pp. 215–241.

BBC News (2021) ‘Could Scotland see a “green laird gold rush”?’, 9 December. Available at: (Last updated: 9.12.21; Accessed: 15.11.22).

Beingessner, N. (2021) ‘Narrating values, persuading government: The unsettled stories of agricultural land ownership in the rural Canadian Prairies’. Geoforum 123:56–65.

Borras Jr., S.M., Hall, R., Scoones, I., White, B. and Wolford, W. (2011). Towards a better understanding of global land grabbing: an editorial introduction, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 38:2, 209–216.

Brice, J. et al. (2022) ‘Immaterial animals and financialized forests: Asset manager capitalism, ESG integration and the politics of livestock’, Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 54(8), pp. 1551–1568. Available at:

Clarke, V., & Braun, V. (2017). ‘Thematic analysis’. The Journal of Positive

Psychology, 12(3), 297–298.

Daniels-Creasey, A. and McKee, A. (2022) Understanding the impact of scale and concentration of landownership: community perspectives from the south of Scotland. Report prepared for the Scottish Government, 37pp.

Davidson, M. (2022) ‘Land, Green Lairds and Rewilding’, Bella Caledonia, 20 February. Available at: (Accessed: 27 January 2023).

Dempsey, J. and Bigger, P. (2019) ‘Intimate Mediations of For-Profit Conservation Finance: Waste, Improvement, and Accumulation’, Antipode, 51(2), pp. 517–538. Available at:

Duckett, D.G., McKee, A.J., Sutherland, L-A., Kyle, C., Boden, L.A., Auty, H., Bessell, P.R. and McKendrick, I.J. (2017). ‘Scenario planning as communicative action: Lessons from participatory exercises conducted for the Scottish livestock industry’, Technological Forecasting and Social Change 114: 138–151

Fairbairn, M. (2020) Fields of gold: financing the global land rush. Ithaca [New York]: Cornell University Press.

Fischer, A. and McKee, A. (2017) ‘A question of capacities? Community resilience and empowerment between assets, abilities and relationships’, Journal of Rural Studies, 54, 187–197.

Flyvbjerg, B. (2006). Five Misunderstandings about Case-Study Research. Qualitative Inquiry 12(2): 219-245. DOI: 10.1177/1077800405284363

Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (2006) ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options’. Available at:

Geisler, C. (2015) ‘Trophy lands: why elites acquire land and why it matters’, Canadian Journal of Development Studies / Revue canadienne d’études du développement, 36(2), pp. 241–257. Available at:

Glass, J., McMorran, R. and McKee, A. (2012). Working together for sustainable estate communities: exploring the potential of collaborative initiatives between private estates, communities and other partners. Centre for Mountain Studies, Perth College, University of Highlands and Islands. Available online: [Accessed: 10.10.23; Last updated: 4.7.2012]

Glenn, S., MacKessack-Leitch, J., Pollard, K., Glass, J., and McMorran, R., (2019),

Investigation into the Issues Associated with Large scale and Concentrated

Landownership in Scotland, Scottish Land Commission. 20th March 2019. Available online:

Glenn, S. 2021. Land and Climate Change – Exploiting Our Natural Capital for the Benefit for All. Scottish Land Commission Blog Series. Available online: exploiting-our-natural-capital-for-the-benefit-of-all [Accessed: 3.9.21; Last updated 21.7.21]

Helm, D. (2022). Natural capital, carbon offsetting and land use: A discussion paper. Scottish Land Commission - Land Lines series. Available online:; Published: May 2022; Accessed: 8.11.22.

Hollingdale, J. (2022). Green finance, land reform and a just transition to net zero: A Discussion Paper. Community Land Scotland. February 2022. Available online:; Last updated: February 2022; Accessed: 16.11.22.

Holmes, G. (2012) ‘Biodiversity for Billionaires: Capitalism, Conservation and the Role of Philanthropy in Saving/Selling Nature’, Development and Change, 43(1), pp. 185–203. Available at:

Hopkins, J. and Piras, S. 2020. Population projections and an introduction to economic-demographic foresight for Scotland’s sparsely populated areas (2018–43). RESAS RD 3.4.1: Demographic change in remote areas. Available online:; Last updated: June 2022; Accessed: 16.11.22.

Hur, M.H. (2006) ‘Empowerment in terms of theoretical perspectives: Exploring a typology of the process and components across disciplines’, Journal of Community Psychology, 34(5), pp. 523–540. Available at:

Koronka, J., Ovando, P. and Vergunst, J. (2022) ‘Understanding values beyond carbon in the Woodland Carbon Code in Scotland’, Trees, Forests and People, 9, p. 100320. Available at:

Le Billon, P. (2021) ‘Crisis conservation and green extraction: biodiversity offsets as spaces of double exception’, Journal of Political Ecology, 28(1). Available at:

Lukes, S. (2021) Power: a radical view. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Mann, J. and Matijevic, P. (2022) ‘The developers behind Scotland’s carbon credit green rush’, The Ferret, 18 August. Available at: behind-scotland-carbon-credit-green-rush/ (Last updated: 18.08.21; Accessed: 15.11.2022).

Marshall, A.R.C. (2022) ‘Who Owns Scotland? The millionaires buying up the Highlands’, Reuters, 27 January. Available at: lairds/ (Last updated: 27.01.2022; Accessed: 15.112022).

MacDonald, F. (2021) ‘Diary: Wild Beasts’, London Review of Books, 23 September 2021. Available at: (Last updated: 23.9.21; Accessed: 4.11.22).

Macfarlane, L. (2021) ‘Scotland is on the global frontlines of The Great Net-Zero Land Grab’, openDemocracy, 26 November. Available at: (Last updated: 26.11.21; Accessed: 15.11.22).

McIntosh, A. (2023). A Potential Model for Community Empowerment – the Silver Standard. Community empowerment and green finance – Workshop 1. NatureScot, Battleby Centre, 22nd August 2023. Available online: [Accessed: 16.10.23; Last updated: 16.8.2023]

McKee, A.J. (2015) ‘Legitimising the Laird? Communicative Action and the role of private landowner and community engagement in rural sustainability’, Journal of Rural Studies, 41, pp. 23–36. DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2015.07.003.

Mc Morran, R., Reed, M.S., Glass, J., Bauer, A., Glendinning, J., Macaulay, B., McKee, A., Peskett, L., Rothenberg, L., Rudman, H., and Williams, A. (2022a). Large-scale land acquisition for carbon: opportunities and risks. A SEFARI Special Advisory Group. Available online: [Accessed:14.11.22; last updated: April 2022]

McMorran, R., Glendinning, J. and Glass, J. (2022b) Rural land market insights report. Report for the Scottish Land Commission, 58pp.

Meissner, N. and Grote, U. (2017) ‘Motives, opportunities, and risks for private sector investment in protected areas with international importance: evidence from German companies’, Environment Development and Sustainability, 19(1), pp. 199–219. Available at:

Merrell, I., Pate, L., Glendinning, J. and Thomson S. (2023) Rural Land Market Insights Report 2023. A report commissioned by the Scottish Land Commission. May 2023. Available online:

NatureScot (2023) £2 billion private finance pilot potential ‘vital step in restoring Scotland’s woodlands’. Available online: (Accessed: 31.8.23; Last updated 1.3.23).

O’Grady, C. (2022). Scotland’s billionaires are turning climate change into a trophy game. The Atlantic. Available at: (Last updated: 20.5.22; Accessed: 15.11.22).

Pinker, A. (2018) ‘Tinkering with turbines: ethics and energy decentralisation in Scotland’, Anthropological Quarterly, 91, 709–748

Pinker, A. (2020) Just transitions: a comparative perspective. Report prepared for the Just Transition Commission, 25 August 2020, 74pp.

Pinker, A.; (2021) ‘Debating energy futures on Lewis: energy transition, the politics of land use and law, and the question of the commons’. In: Webb, J, Wade, F. and Tingey, M (Eds). Research Handbook on Energy and Society Elgar Handbooks in Energy, the Environment and Climate Change.

Raufflet, E. et al. (2013) ‘Social License’. In Idowu, S, et al. (Eds). Encyclopedia of Corporate Social Responsibility. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer, pp. 2223–2230. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-28036-8_77.

Reed, M.S. et al. (2022) ‘Integrating ecosystem markets to co-ordinate landscape-scale public benefits from nature’, PLOS ONE, 17(1), p. e0258334.

Ross, C. (2021) ‘“Green lairds” sparking debate on land reform’, The Courier & Advertiser (Fife Edition), 28 September.

Salter, E. (2022) ‘Rewilding, or just a greenwashed land grab? It all depends on who benefits’, The Guardian, 28 May. Available at: (Accessed: 27 January 2023).

Scotland’s Moorland Forum (2022) Rewilding - A synthesis of opinion. Discussion paper 1. Scotland’s Moorland Forum. Available at: (Accessed: 4 November 2022).

Scottish Government (2017). Scottish Energy Strategy: The future of energy in Scotland. Available online:; Published: December 2017; accessed: 16.11.22.

Scottish Government (2021a). Just Transition Commission: A national mission for a fairer, greener Scotland. Available online: greener-scotland/documents/ [Accessed: 3.9.21; Last updated 23.3.21]

Scottish Government (2021b). Scotland’s Third Land Use Strategy: Getting the best from our land. Available online: Published: 24.03.2021; Accessed: 16.11.22

Scottish Government (2022a) ‘Land Reform in a Net Zero Nation’. Scottish Government. Available at: (Accessed: 3 September 2022).

Scottish Government (2022b) Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement 2022. The Scottish Government. Available at: (Accessed: 15 March 2023).

Scottish Government (2022c) Interim Principles for Responsible Investment in Natural Capital. Available online: (Accessed: 10.10.23; Last updated 31.03.2022).

Scottish Government (2022d) Delivering Economic Prosperity: Scotland’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation. Scottish Government, March 2022. Available online: (Accessed: 24.11.23; Last updated: March 2022).

Scottish Government (2023) Wildlife management in Scotland: Analysis of responses to the consultation exercise. Scottish Government. Available online: [Accessed: 16.10.23; Last updated: 3.4.2023]

Scottish Land Commission (2021) Community Engagement Protocol. Good Practice Series. Available online: [Accessed: 10.10.23; Last updated: 2021]

Scottish Land Commission (2022). Natural Capital and Land: Recommendations for a Just Transition. Advice to Scottish Ministers, June 2022. Available online:; Last updated: June 2022; Accessed: 16.11.22.

Scottish Land Commission (2023). Delivering Community Benefits from Land. Guidance from the Scottish Land Commission. Available online:; Accessed: 23.11.23; Last updated: 16.11.23.

Scottish Land & Estates (2022). Land Reform Plans Threaten To Hit Taxpayers And Net Zero Ambitions. Available online:,on%20ideology%20with%20no%20evidence%20to%20support%20them; Scottish Land & Estates. Published: 29.10.22; Accessed: 16.11.22.

Sharma, K. et al. (2023) ‘Glocal woodlands – The rescaling of forest governance in Scotland’, Land Use Policy, 126, p. 106524. DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2022.106524.

Shukla, P.R. et al. (2019) Climate Change and Land: An IPCC Special Report on Climate Change, Desertification, Land Degradation, Sustainable Land Management, Food Security, and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Terrestrial Ecosystems. Available at:

Stevens, B., Mc Morran, R., Glass, J., Reed, M., Rudman, H. and Grist, H. (2022). Regional Land Use Partnerships: phase 1 process evaluation – final report. Report for the Scottish Government. Available online: 5. Conclusions - Regional Land Use Partnerships: phase 1 process evaluation - final report - (; Published: 12.10.2022; Accessed 13.11.22.

Sullivan, S. (2018) ‘’Bonding nature(s)? Funds, financiers and values at the impact investing edge in environmental conservation’, in S. Bracking et al. (eds) Valuing development, environment and conservation: creating values that matter. Abingdon, Oxon [UK]: Routledge, pp. 101–121.

Thomson, S.G., Atterton, J., Tiwasing, P., McMillan, J., Pate,

L., Vuin, A. and Merrell, I. (2023) Rural and Islands Report: 2023 - An Insights

Report. An SRUC output from the NISRIE project funded by the Scottish

Government. DOI: 10.58073/SRUC.23807703

Thompson, B.S. (2023) ‘Impact investing in biodiversity conservation with bonds: An analysis of financial and environmental risk’, Business Strategy and the Environment, 32(1), pp. 353–368. DOI: 10.1002/bse.3135.

van der Ploeg, J.D., Franco, J.C. and Borras, S.M. (2015) ‘Land concentration and land grabbing in Europe: a preliminary analysis’, Canadian Journal of Development Studies / Revue canadienne d’études du développement, 36(2), pp. 147–162. DOI: 10.1080/02255189.2015.1027673.

Waylen, K.A. and Marshall, A. (2023) Defining rewilding for Scotland’s public sector. Edinburgh: The Scottish Government, p. 53. Available at: (Accessed: 31 August 2023).

Waylen, K. A. and Martin-Ortega, J. (2018). Surveying views on Payments for Ecosystem Services: Implications for environmental management and research, Ecosystem Services, 29, 23-30. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.11.007

Wightman, A. (2023). Personal communication. 8.11.23.

Wightman, A. and Hollingdale, J. (2023). Forest Ownership in Scotland 2022: Ten Years Later. Report 1 of 2. Published by the Forest Policy Group, November 2023. Available online:

Wynne-Jones, S., Strouts, G., O’Neil, C. and Sandom, C. (2020) ‘Rewilding – departures in conservation policy and practice? An evaluation of developments in Britain’, Conservation and Society, 18(2), pp. 89–102. DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_19_32

WSP (2022). Understanding the local economic impacts of natural capital investment. Report for the Scottish Government and NatureScot. Available online: capital-investment/; Accessed: 14.11.22; last updated 24.08.22



Back to top