Who Owns Scotland 2024 (a preliminary analysis)

It is twelve years since I last published comprehensive statistics on who owns Scotland. With a Land Reform Bill going through Parliament, I though it might be helpful to bring the data up to date. There are obvious connections between this data and the Land Reform bill and I will be publishing a separate analysis of this in the next few days.

I run the Who Owns Scotland project which aims to document the ownership of 75% of Scotland and is on track to achieve this by May 2025. Data derived from this project and other sources has formed the basis of what is a preliminary analysis of who owns Scotland 2024. I will be publishing a fuller and final analysis later this year.

You can read my report Who Owns Scotland 2024 here.

The Guardian has a story about it today.

In summary, here is what I found.

Rural Scotland is still overwhelmingly privately-owned accounting for 83% of rural Scotland. For the purposes of this study, private ownership excludes public, heritage and community landowners.

Community landownership has increased by 40,048 ha from 172,294 ha in 2012 to 212,342 ha in 2024 (a 23% increase in extent) and accounts for 2.8%

Environmental organisations such as the National Trust for Scotland and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds own much what they did 12 years ago at 2.5%.

The public sector estate has decreased by 20,907 ha (2.2%) since 2012 and now owns 11.7% of rural Scotland.

Private rural landownership has become more concentrated over the past 12 years with 433 landowners owning 50% of the privately-owned rural land in 2024 compared to 440 in 2012 (see table below).

% of private rural land heldNo. owners 2012No. owners 2024extent (ha) 2024

Whereas in 2012, 3380 landowners owned 4.5 million ha of privately-owned rural land, now that same amount is owned by 3012 owners.

Landholdings are getting larger. Today, 1238 landowners own 3,993,022 ha of land (62.5% of privately-owned rural land) in landholdings of over 500 ha in extent compared to 1252 in 2012 who owned 3,992,194 ha (62.4%).

What is going on?

Well, as far as the very largest landowners are concerned (those who account for half of the privately owned rural land) some have sold and their land has been bought by others. That is normal. But big players like the Duke of Buccleuch has been selling land, reducing his landholding in Scotland by 32% from 97,890 ha in 2012 to 66,345 ha in 2024.

But such downsizing has been more than offset at the upper end of the landownership scale and at the lower end by the steady accumulation of more land by existing landowners. In my report I highlight examples of those at the top end who have been expanding their holdings. The table below shows the top 20 largest private landowners in 2024.

1Glen Feshie & others88,296Wildland Ltd. (Anders Povlsen)
2Buccleuch Estates66,345Buccleuch Estates Ltd  
3Gresham House properties53,775Gresham House Ltd. partnerships
4Atholl Estates49,853Atholl Trustees & Sarah Hope Troughton
5Mamore & Killiechonate Estate46,764Simec Lochaber Hydropower 2 Ltd
6Reay Estate38,365Trustees of the 4th Duke of Westminster
7Invercauld Estate37,953Captain Farquharson’s Trusts
8Seafield Estate37,901Earl of Seafield and Trusts
9Strathconon Estate36,933Strathconon Estates Ltd.
10Sutherland Estate32,928Executors of Countess of Sutherland
11Blackmount & Glen Etive Estate31,832Philip Fleming
12Braulen & Glenavon Estate28,729Andras Ltd. and Glenavon Ltd.
13Locheil Estate25,684Trustees of Donald Cameron
14Conaglen & Rothes Estate25,541Trustees of John and Richard Guthrie
15Killilan, Inverinate & Benula25,485Smech Properties Ltd.
16Applecross Estate24,877Applecross Estate Trust
17Drummond Estate24,665Baroness Willoughby de Eresby
18Various properties24,258Julia & Guy Hands
19Corrour Estate23,037The Corrour Property Company
20Corrievarkie Estate22,738Compania Financiera Waterville SA
  • Wildland Ltd (Anders Povlsen) has expanded its landholdings by 37% from 64,457 ha in
    2012 to 88,296 ha in 2024.
  • Gresham House Ltd. owned no land in Scotland in 2012 and now owns more than
    53,775 ha of land via a number of Scottish Limited Partnerships and other vehicles
    making it the third largest private landowner in Scotland.
  • Strathconon Estates Ltd. has expanded its landholdings by 31% from 28,266 ha in 2012
    to 36,933 ha in 2024 through the acquisition of Scardroy Estate in 2013 and Ledgowan.
    Estate in 2017.
  • Julia and Guy Hands owned 7113 ha in 2012 and have expanded their landholding by
    241% to 24,258 ha in 2024. This includes the 5632 ha Griffin Estate in Perthshire on the
    market in 2023 at offers over £130 million.

Other owners, mainly London-based financial corporations have been expanding their landholdings. Some of these are highlighted in my Rural Land Market Report 2020 – 2022.

Legal entities (companies, trusts and partnerships own more that 65% of all privately-owned rural land with around 35% owned by individuals.

Understanding who owns Scotland, how the pattern is changing and why is a vital part of designing policies and legislation to change that pattern. The current trend is being driven by powerful financial interests and there are no meaningful measures being proposed to reverse it.

I will be publishing further blogs on some of the stories behind the statistics in the coming weeks.

Please read the full report here.