TENS of thousands of jobs could be created if Scotland reformed its land ownership and use, giving people, communities and the nation the opportunity to use it more productively, according to a new report.

Work the Land, the first in a series of reports by the Common Weal think tank and Revive – a coalition seeking grouse moor reform – said the restructuring would enable new land-based businesses to be created, along with housing developments and community planning which supported future opportunities to make national aspirations – such as tackling climate change – easier to achieve.

They said arguments that reforming land ownership or grouse moors will harm fragile economies, by restricting employment opportunities, were only true if alternative uses of the land were ignored.

Common Weal examined a total of 10 alternative job types, including land manager and energy engineer, along with posts in commercial forestry and ecotourism.

“In each case a conservative potential number of jobs is estimated,” they said.

“These cannot be summed to create a total as without mapping Scotland and allocating land for each purpose there would be double counting where land has more than one potential use.

“Nevertheless, the potential in jobs in rural Scotland is in the tens of thousands.”
Land management, said the authors, could potentially create 20,000 jobs with salaries of more than £24,400, and wood processing, around1500 jobs paying around £23,400.

Energy engineering positions in wind and solar generation could total 2000 jobs paying salaries of £33,700, and housebuilding could see the creation of 18,000 jobs, also paying around £33,700.

The report also detailed how many hectares of land would be needed to create one job – ranging from a modest 24ha for a position in land management, to 3684ha for a wildlilfe manager and around 4000 for a deer stalker.

It added that secondary jobs in the supply chain or services sectors would, in turn, facilitate other jobs further down the line.

“Existing tourism and hospitality businesses which have been unable to expand because of lack of housing for staff could then expand; light manufacturing jobs derived from the outputs of wood processing could be created; energy-intensive businesses might relocate to where energy generation takes place,” it said.

Neither was this the end of the narrative, suggested the study, because these benefits also brought the scale of operations that would make proper infrastructure investment, in technology for example, viable once again.

“Thriving rural communities with good broadband can become the home for a wide range of economic activity, from people who are moving to home working relocating to people who want to start web-based businesses and can do it anywhere,” said the study.

“All of these opportunities cascade outwards from the act of breaking 
the logjam in land availability in Scotland.”

Report author, Robin McAlpine said land reformers were sometimes presented as urban types who neither known nor care about life in the countryside.

He added: “But I’ve lived in the countryside my whole life and I know how hard it can be to find any job never mind a good job.

“Rural Scotland, its natural resources and its people are a massive opportunity that we’re not making the most of and a big part of the problem is the way land is owned.

“If people could get land to start a business, communities could get land to build new housing and if as a nation we used our land properly and shared its benefits it could create many thousands of jobs and transform the whole country.”

Revive campaign manager, Max Wiszniewski, added: “It’s now clear that land reform is a major opportunity for rural Scotland and transitioning from archaic and damaging 
land uses like grouse moor management to better alternatives can provide far greater value to more isolated communities.”