THE value of farmland in Scotland skyrocketed by as much as 58% between 2020 and 2022, according to a new report.

The Scottish Land Commission (SLC) paper analysed markets and prices for sales across the three years to provide “a vital window into the nature and scale of transactions” and help to inform upcoming land reform legislation.

Dividing Scotland into four regions – using the same boundaries as the European Union’s NUTS 2 (Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics) – the SLC report found that north east Scotland had seen the greatest increase in farmland value from 2020 to 2022 (58.2%).

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More farmland sales occurred in eastern Scotland than anywhere else, and values held relatively steady, increasing by 3.2% from 2020-2022.

South western Scotland “followed closely” behind in terms of the number of farmland sales, but saw huge growth in value (42.1%).

The Highlands and Islands trailed behind in farmland value, but saw an increase of 24.5% over the three-year period.

The SLC report also looked at forestry land sales – which were concentrated in four counties (Dumfriesshire, Roxburghshire, Argyll, and Perthshire) – and “estates”.

However, it cautioned: “As ‘estate’ is not a land classification option or requirement in terms of land registration legislation, identifying estates in this data is particularly difficult.”

Forestry land saw prices peak in 2021 before falling back again in 2022 – a move attributed to inflation and grant incentives no longer covering rising land costs.

Overall, the SLC reported average rural land prices per hectare, from 2020-2022, of £9827 for the Highlands and Islands, £15,198 for north east Scotland, £15,980 for south western Scotland, and £17,535 for eastern Scotland.

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It also suggested that Scottish Government land reform proposals – which would see a public interest test triggered on sales greater than 3000 hectares – would affect only around one in 100 sales.

Campaigners including Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba have called for this proposed limit to be dropped to 500 hectares.

The SLC report stated: “The vast majority of rural land sales (between 91.4% and 95% each year) were smaller than 500 hectares. Very few land sales over 3000 hectares took place over the three years – only 1.1% of all sales we identified.”

A total of 740 rural land sales took place over the three-year study period, of which 24 were for land over 1000 hectares in size, and a further 27 for areas of between 500-1000 hectares.

SLC chief executive Hamish Trench (below) said: “This report provides a vital window into the nature and scale of transactions occurring within Scotland's rural land market over the past three years.

The National:

“While the volume of land coming to market has been relatively consistent over the past three years, the vast majority of sales are moderate-sized farms and forests, with very large land acquisitions being much rarer.”

He went on: “Through these reports, our commitment is to paint a clearer and more transparent picture of the rural land market, providing valuable insights to guide decisions on legal, policy, and practical changes.

“While we've successfully compiled a robust dataset, the report also underscores the necessity for ongoing reforms in how we collect and share data about land in Scotland.

"Transitioning towards a cadastral map system that consolidates information on land value, ownership, and use – a widely embraced approach in Europe – holds significant advantages. In the meantime, we will continue to work on how to make more of the existing data available.”

The full SLC The Rural Land Market Report can be found here.