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Property agents say CO2 compensation plans boosting sales of Scottish estates

By Gavin Musgrove

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Rugged lands on Kinrara Estate where BrewDog plans to plant the Lost Forest.
Rugged lands on Kinrara Estate where BrewDog plans to plant the Lost Forest.

Rural property consultancy Galbraith says demand for land for carbon emission off-sets and rewilding is boosting the market for Scottish estates.

The firm has sold and bought estates valued in excess of £50m over the last two years.

Galbraith said increased variety of motivations for acquiring an upland estate has stimulated the market further which was already benefiting from the booming forestry sector.

Partner Emma Chalmers said: “The interesting change is there is now a range of buyers with a variety of interests and no longer are the buyers just interested in the more traditional sports of grouse shooting, stalking, fishing and low ground shooting.

“The sales of Glenlochay Estate in Stirlingshire and Auchavan Estate in Angus, sold in 2019 and 2020 respectively, both prompted a number of natural capital buyers to come forward alongside those who were primarily interested in traditional pursuits.

"However, the sale of Kinrara Estate by Aviemore earlier this year saw the majority of potential buyers with interests in woodland creation and natural capital above all else.

"This was further experienced when a stock farm was marketed and sold privately, also earlier this year, with a natural capital buyer secured. Thus, demonstrating the changing nature of the market.”

The company said demand outstrips supply by a considerable margin, as only around 15 estates will change hands in a typical year.

Average prices are increasing, alongside significant premiums being paid for hill farms and planting land.

Galbraith reports that buyers include corporations, institutions and investment houses, as well as private individuals with a variety of motivations and interests. Private sales have increased considerably as a percentage of the overall market.

Ms Chalmers continued: “The Scottish estate has always been sought after, formerly principally driven by interest in traditional sports, together with the desire to ‘get away from it all’. Demand has always outstripped supply, with only about 10 to 15 estates offered for sale each year, either privately or on the open market.

“However, we are seeing with the accelerating understanding of climate change, growing desire to offset carbon usage, both personally and by business, the need to be more visibly green or indeed by some to meet their net zero targets, the traditional estate, together with the hill and stock farms, are attracting increased interest from this new natural capital purchaser.

"Some buyers look to plant well designed productive forests, others native woodlands or indeed a diverse mixture of both, with the newer peatland restoration also now coming into the mix. "However Natural Capital isn’t meaning the ceasing of the traditional sports as there are many buyers who look to retain some or all of the sport whilst introducing or expanding natural capital elements...

"Land is being acquired by businesses to offset carbon emissions whilst providing a financial return from other parts of the estate.”

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