THE Duke of Buccleuch is among the aristocrats contesting business rates on their shooting estates, The National can reveal.

Our investigation found the landowner, who controls around 217,000 acres in Dumfries and Galloway and in the Borders, is appealing the rateable value of estate properties used for country sports such as deer stalking.

The revelation comes after inquiries by this newspaper discovered the Queen has submitted appeals for business rates levied on country sports activities at Balmoral in Aberdeenshire.

And further investigations have discovered that Torquhil Ian Campbell, 13th Duke of Argyll, is appealing business rates for three estates with sporting rights at Inveraray, on Ross of Mull, on the Isle of Mull, and for his estate on Tiree in the Inner Hebrides.

READ MORE: Revealed: The Queen appeals Scottish tax bill for Balmoral

An appeal has also been lodged by the Islay Estate Company, headed by Lord Margadale, for land used for activities such as deer stalking, pheasant shooting and salmon fishing on the island of Islay, also off the west coast.

Many other aristocratic landowners have lodged appeals too through the companies that run their estates.

Shooting and deer stalking ventures were exempt from non-domestic rates under legislation brought in by the Conservatives in 1994, although the companies behind them did have to pay rates for other aspects of their businesses such as offices, work shops and holiday lets.

READ MORE: Business rates system to be reviewed amid estates' tax appeals

But the Scottish Government’s Land Reform Act in 2016 removed the exemption in a bid to bring in a more equitable system of land ownership and address inequalities in wealth and income.

The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was not right that just 432 landowners own half of Scotland’s private land and ministers set a target of having a million acres in community ownership by 2020.

Under the legislation, the new revenue would go to a Scottish Land Fund to help promote community buyouts. Figures accompanying the bill estimated around £4 million a year would be collected.

After the act passed surveyors gave a rateable value (RV) to each sporting estate to determine the business rates they would have to pay under the new law.

The bill for each property is worked out by a formula which multiplies the RV with the poundage rate, set by the Scottish Government – currently 48p for properties with a RV of up to £51,000 and 50.6p for those with a RV of more than £51,000.

Entries published on the roll for the Scottish Assessors Association, whose members carry out the valuations, reveal the Buccheuch family’s Queensberry Estate is appealing a £71,500 rateable valuation for shooting and stalking land at Sanquhar in Dumfries and Galloway.

It also shows the Buccleuch estates are appealing a £25,500 rateable value given to Bowhill low ground stalking land in Selkirk, and for two sites at Hawick, one for a RV of £11,600, the other for a RV of £6600. The rates set for other parts of the Buccheuch estates are being appealed by tenants.

A spokesman for Buccleuch said the total RV for sporting rights for Buccleuch’s landholdings stands at £329,000, resulting in payments of around £158,000 a year for rates on sporting rights on Buccleuch-owned property.

The Duke of Argyll has lodged appeals for the RV of £32,250 given to his Inveraray sporting estate, £17,400 for his Mull estate and £13,700 for his Tiree estate. The total annual rates bill for those sporting lands come to around £30,400.

Further south, the Islay Estate Company, headed by Lord Margadale, is appealing the rateable value of £72,500 for land with sporting rights on the island. Its annual rates bill comes to around £36,685.

The National: John Finnie

John Finnie, the Scottish Greens’ MSP for the Highlands and Islands, criticised landowners for taking issue over the rates’ bill for their sporting estates.

He said: “Oh dear, the continuing sense of entitlement of the privileged few! It’s bad enough that blood sports are still seen as a source of income by some big landowners but to see them quibbling when they are asked to pay their fair share of business rates will stick in the craw of many socially responsible businesses who are the real future of our rural communities.”

READ MORE: Business rates system to be reviewed amid estates' tax appeals

EARLIER this week, The National revealed the Queen is appealing two sets of RVs resulting in annual rates’ bills of £16,800 on sporting estates at Balmoral in Aberdeenshire. Follow-up inquiries by the Herald discovered she has in additional appealed a rateable value of £8000 on a deer forest at Delnadamph, Strathdon.

Last year’s Sunday Times Rich List estimated that the Queen had an income of £370m, while the Duke of Buccleuch and his family were worth £224m.

The National:

It is free to appeal a RV given by surveyors to a business. Statistics from the Scottish Assessors’ Association show around a third OF firms do so. Businesses pay the rates they are presented with during the appeal process.

A spokesman for Buccleuch said: “Valuation for the reintroduction of non-domestic rates on sporting rights was largely conducted by assessors via a paperwork exercise. As with a large number of land-based businesses across Scotland, appeals were entered to the assessor in order that valuations could be more accurately determined once the methodology had been ascertained.

“The total rateable value for sporting rights for Buccleuch’s landholding stands at £329,000. At the present time, this would lead to a total payment of approximately £158,000 per annum for rates on sporting rights on Buccleuch owned property. Payment of rates is still being met whilst the appeal – and any possible adjustment to the valuation – remains outstanding.

“This sum is purely for rates levied on sporting rights and comes in addition to the business rates and tax already being paid across Buccleuch’s many different businesses. Buccleuch is subject to full Scottish and UK tax regulation and settles all payments where they fall due.”

No-one from the Duke of Argyll’s estate or from Islay Estates responded to a request for a comment from The National.

David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land and Estates, said: “Rural land-based businesses in Scotland support thousands of jobs and help to sustain remote communities. Estates, the majority of which are small businesses, have always paid due rates on their business activities such workshops, offices and holiday properties.

“All businesses are able to appeal their valuations in case of errors or inaccuracies. Around one-third of all valuation appeals on sporting rates is similar to other sectors and while waiting for appeal outcomes the bills are being paid.

“The appeals are also from tenants, crofters and farmers, who have been caught up in this process.”