LAND ownership in Scotland has become more concentrated despite two decades of land reform legislation, according to a new study.

Andy Wightman, a land reform campaigner who previously published data on Scottish land distribution in 2012, has calculated that half of all privately owned rural land in Scotland (equivalent to 3.2m hectares) is held by just 433 people and companies, with only 2.76% held by community groups.

The latest data, as reported by The Guardian, found that hereditary peers own less land than previously, while the number of private investors who specialise in financially lucrative “green capital” schemes to create forestry and peat restoration projects has surged.

Wightman’s (below) analysis of Land Registry records found that Scotland’s third largest landowner is US-owned investment firm Gresham House, which owns 53,775 hectares across 161 separate holdings.

The National:

The Duke of Buccleuch – who was Scotland’s largest private landowner when Wightman did his last survey in 2012 – placed second, holding 66,345 hectares.

This figure is 32% less than in 2012, as the estate has been voluntarily selling land to local residents.

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Scotland’s largest landowner is Danish billionaire Anders Povlsen, the largest shareholder in the British online fashion retailer Asos.

He owns 88,296 hectares spread across 12 estates, an increase of 37% since 2012.

Wightman’s data has come from records held by Registers of Scotland, the official land register, and more accurate land mass data from Ordnance Survey.

Alongside other land campaigners, he has argued that the latest data is evidence that the Scottish parliament’s attempts to empower community buyouts to diversify rural landownership has failed, despite enacting several laws to strengthen right to buy laws and asset transfers.

Despite several significant buyouts, including the sale of 4000 hectares on Langholm Moor to local residents by Buccleuch Estates and the purchase of the island of Ulva off Mull, part-funded with £4.4m from the government-backed Scottish Land Fund, sales of that scale are very rare.

‘Scotland has the most concentrated pattern of land ownership in Europe

Scottish Government figures show the amount of community-owned land has grown by just 40,048 hectares in the last decade, from 172,294 hectares in 2012 to 212,342 hectares.

“Scotland has the most concentrated pattern of land ownership in Europe,” Wightman told The Guardian.

“There’s nothing in the current reforms which will make any substantial change to that. If we’re serious about changing that, we need to embrace reforms which will absolutely deliver.”

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Gresham House, which markets its forestry projects as tax-efficient investments, insists they are ultimately owned by its clients. “Forests managed by Gresham House make a major contribution to Scotland’s rural economy and support hundreds of jobs,” it said.

The National:

Mairi Gougeon (above), the Scottish government’s land reform secretary, said the “targeted and proportionate” powers set out in the land reform bill would apply to more than 50% of Scotland.

She continued: “I would like to see us own more of our own land and waters and for that public ownership to be clearly undertaken in the interests of everyone who lives in Scotland. But without the full powers, resources and levers of independence, our ability to do so is limited.”