Estates urge government collaboration to foster rural growth

Estates urge government collaboration to foster rural growth

Dee Ward

Speaking at the Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) annual conference in Edinburgh, SLE chairman Dee Ward welcomed the renewed focus by political leaders on fostering a thriving economy that supports people, jobs, and nature.

Estates generate an estimated £2.4 billion GVA/year for the Scottish economy, support around 57,300 jobs – around one in ten rural jobs – and provide land for 14,000 rural enterprises, according to recent research.

Mr Ward said despite the historical context in which they are often viewed, rural estates in Scotland today are vibrant, modern businesses equipped to work with government to deliver increased prosperity.

He added that by rural businesses building their own resilience, they could play a hugely important role in supporting the resilience of rural communities as well as helping to address the twin climate and nature emergencies.

Keynote speakers at the SLE conference included Scottish Government Minister for Agriculture and Connectivity, Jim Fairlie MSP, and Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar MSP.

Mr Ward said: “I believe that now is the moment for the Scottish Government to reset its relationship with rural Scotland, better understand the positive work we are undertaking to deliver benefits for everyone, and create an evidenced based environment for legislation that supports our work to continue delivering these benefits now, and in the future.

“Recent years have seen the introduction of policies and legislation that fail to recognise the enormous contributions estates are making to our national outcomes. I urge estates to continue delivering these benefits, for nature, people and climate, let our positive impact do the talking – and leave our government in no doubt that we are leading the way in growing our rural economy and in our fight against the climate and nature emergencies.

“That is the strongest possible message we can send to encourage government to change course.”

Mr Ward continued: “Providing the government is ready and willing to work with us, I’m certain we can do even more to foster this social, economic and environmental contribution.

“Research demonstrates the value that estates are already generating for Scotland as well as the jobs and enterprises that are being supported. By ensuring our own business resilience, we can build this output in partnership with communities, other businesses, government and their partner agencies.

“Whilst some wish to hark back to the past in their characterisation of rural estates, the reality is that estate businesses are playing a key role in food production, forestry and peatland restoration, tourism, clean energy and nature and wildlife conservation.”

Jim Fairlie MSP said: “Improving the resilience of our rural businesses is vital in order to safeguard Scotland’s economic prosperity in the future.

“Many businesses are still feeling the negative impacts of Brexit and the Covid pandemic. Many are also feeling the effects of the twin crises of climate change and nature loss.

“I recognise the vast contribution rural businesses make to our economy. This government is committed to working with rural businesses to improve resilience in order to meet these challenges head on.”

Anas Sarwar MSP commented: “Scottish Labour wants rural businesses to do well, we want businesses to make profit and of course, we want to encourage businesses to use the fruits of that profit to encourage the workforce, to support local communities – but we also want to try and inspire businesses to use the fruits of that profit to invest in our country to maximise the opportunities of Scotland.

“The lack of focus on economic policy has stagnated our growth potential in Scotland and hasn’t allowed us to realise the full opportunity of every single part of our nation.

“What we want to see is a return to collaboration – one of the founding principles of devolution. Collaboration within our communities between politicians, third sector, private sector and maximising the opportunities of working together. I think the potential is absolutely huge for Scotland if we can embrace working together and going back to collaborative politics.”

Representatives from estates across Scotland attend the conference. Scottish Land & Estates commissioned two major pieces of research by leading consultancy, BiGGAR Economics, that reflect the role of estates business in the Scottish economy; ‘Land: the Role of Scale in Delivering a Just Transition’ and ‘The Contribution of Estates to Scotland’s Wellbeing Economy’.

Share icon
Share this article: