Who owns Scotland's land?

Half of Scotland is owned by just 500 people, few of whom are actually Scots. As Britain's great land-owning aristocratic families decline, a new breed of foreign laird is exploiting Scotland's arcane land laws to buy up tracts of the Highlands and islands - Europe's last great wilderness.  In 2018/2019 it was reported that the largest landowner owns 221,000 acres (890 km2; 345 sq mi) of land in Scotland. The government believes 57% of rural land is in private hands, about 12.5% owned by public bodies, 3% under community ownership and about 2.5% is owned by charities etc.

Full answer here: Land ownership in Scotland

Forest Ownership in Scotland: Policy Review

Author / Creator: Jon Hollingdale

Media type: Report

Date published: 2023

Forestry ownership is intimately related to the multi-faceted requirements of land reform.

Small landholdings modernisation: consultation

Author / Creator: Scottish Government

Media type: Consultation paper

Date published: 2022

Views on proposals relating to the modernisation of small landholdings

Who Owns Scotland

Author / Creator: Andy Wightman

Media type: Website

Date published: 2022 -

Who Owns Scotland is a project designed to provide information about who owns land in Scotland.

Land and Property Titles by Country of Origin: Report

Author / Creator: Registers of Scotland

Media type: Report

Date published: 31 December, annually

Land titles with a UK owner address outwith Scotland represent just under a sixth of the country’s land area.

Community's Land. John Hutcheson on Community Land Buyouts

Author / Creator: John Hutcheson

Media type: Podcast

Date published:

They discuss the barriers raised against community land buyouts, how a potential Scottish Constitution could grant and protect additional rights such as the Right to Buy and why community ownership isn’t just for rural areas.

Highland estates and multi-millionaires bank £1m of taxpayers’ money from Covid-19 grants

Author / Creator: Ally Tibbitt

Media type: Fact check

Date published:

The data obtained by The Ferret shows that around £178m was paid to more than 8,000 recipients by Highland Council. 

Community-based land reform: Lessons from Scotland

Author / Creator: John Bryden

Media type: Academic Paper

Date published: 2007

Drawing on insights from community-based natural resource management and local development,  qualified evidence is offered suggesting that, as in the current Scottish case, community-centric land reform has a promising future. 

The effects associated with concentrated and large-scale land ownership in Scotland: a research review

Author / Creator: Jayne Glass

Media type: Research review

Date published: March 2019

Central is the power that a landowner holds over local land use decisions and the extent to which local communities and other stakeholders can influence/inform those decisions.

Reform Scotland’s Land

Author / Creator: Common Weal

Media type: Video

Date published: 2020

Land reform is a social justice issue. How can democratic decisions about the kind of country we want in the face of a small number of landowners?


Back to Life: Mapping Scotland’s Alternative to Grouse Moors

Author / Creator: Lateral North

Media type: Policy Paper

Date published: December 2018

An illustrative map – based on real Scottish geographic data – showing what a reformed former grouse moor could look like.

Back to Life: Visions for Alternative Futures for Scotland’s Grouse Moors

Author / Creator: Common Weal

Media type: Policy Paper

Date published:

Of all the possible uses of this land, grouse shooting is not only the least moral, it is by far the least economically effective. In fact, almost any other use will create more value and more jobs per hectare.

Land Reform: Re-Shaping Scotland’s Social Landscape

Author / Creator: Dylan Howel

Media type: News Item

Date published:

Scotland has one of the most concentrated patterns of private land ownership in the developed world. Just 450 people own over half of the private land in Scotland. This entitlement has survived un-challenged for 500 years, a privilege that has its roots in royal favours and aristocratic archetypes

Public Land Value Capture: A new model for housing development in Scotland

Author / Creator: Common Weal

Media type: Policy Paper

Date published: Feburary 2018

This report outlines the case for public land value capture. A process by which councils, not those selling land, can benefit from the increase in land value due to changing use. It can reduce house prices by not passing that uplifted cost on to renters and buyers of the houses built on such land.