Public Land Holdings in Scotland - Summary
(i) In Scotland, the main public land holdings (excluding organisations such as Universities, Network Rail and the Ministry of Defence  ) are:
(a) National Forest Estate 651,300 ha (owned by Scottish
(b) Crofting estates - 95,200 ha (owned by Scottish Ministers)
(c) SNH - 36,000 ha
(d) Crown Estate - 35,500 ha
(e) Local Authorities - 33,000 ha
(f) Scottish Water - 24,300 ha
(g) Main Others - 10,000 ha
National Forest Estate ( NFE)
(ii) The NFE is 9% of Scotland's land area and accounts for around 80% of Scottish Ministers' land holding. The purpose for which Forest Enterprise Scotland manages the NFE on behalf of Scottish Ministers has broadened out in recent years, with the estate (a third of which is open land) now being managed not only for forestry objectives but also for wider economic, environmental (e.g. biodiversity) and social outcomes (e.g. recreation). The NFE is mainly in the uplands, but with a growing portfolio in central Scotland and around towns. The objectives for the NFE are set out in 'Scotland's National Forest Estate and Strategic Directions', under six strategic objectives:
- safeguarding 'national treasures';
- delivering economic forestry for people and community benefits;
- timber production for market stability and development;
- contributing to the Scottish Government's climate change targets;
- landscape-scale management for biodiversity and ecosystem services; and
- supporting policy, R&D and exemplars of land use integration and best practice.
Scottish Ministers Crofting Estate
(iii) Scottish Ministers own 58 Crofting Estates for the purpose of maintaining viable crofting communities in remote rural areas. These are concentrated in Skye, Sutherland and the Outer Hebrides. There are currently around 1,556 crofts on these estates, which represents nearly 9% of all crofts in Scotland. These estates also include a small number of other agricultural holdings. There are, in addition, shooting and fishing leases on some of these estates as well as lets for masts, quarries and other items. The Crofting Commission exercises regulatory functions in pursuit of the Scottish Government's crofting policies.
Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH)
(iv) SNH owns 36,000 ha and leases 7,000 ha of land run as nature reserves; including 36 of the 47 National Nature Reserves ( NNRs) (other NNRs are managed by FES, National Trust for Scotland, RSPB, Scottish Wildlife Trust and South Lanarkshire Council). NNRs are widely distributed and there are criteria to ensure NNRs are selected to showcase some of the best examples of Scotland's nature and can be managed to provide people with special opportunities to appreciate and enjoy Scotland's rich natural heritage. They are all protected as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and a number of them are also Natura sites of European importance. Some of these sites are managed by other organisations on behalf of SNH.
- The Natural Heritage (Scotland) Act 1991 sets out that SNH's property 'shall not be regarded as property of or held on behalf of, the Crown'. However, for the purposes of applying any Act or law to land which belongs to SNH, and is managed as an NNR, the legislation deems SNH land, for the purpose of any rate on property, to be land occupied by or on behalf of the Crown for public purposes (i.e. SNH land which is managed as an NNR is exempt from rates as if it was owned by the Crown).
(v) The Crown Estate's role is 'to make sure that the land and property we invest in and manage are sustainably worked, developed and enjoyed to deliver the best value over the long term' and its annual revenue profit is paid to the UK Government. In Scotland the Crown Estate manages:
- four rural estates (42,000 ha with agricultural tenancies, residential and commercial properties and forestry);
- salmon fishing rights and approximately half the foreshore, including 5,000 licensed moorings and 850 aquaculture sites;
- almost all of the seabed, including leasing of the seabed out to 12 nautical miles and the rights to renewable energy, pipelines and cables on the continental shelf; and
- In Edinburgh, 39-41 George Street and Fort Kinnaird Retail Park (the latter is through a 50 per cent interest in a joint venture).
(vi) Another key component of public land ownership in Scotland is the property owned at local government level by Scotland's 32 Local Authorities. These Local Authorities need to own and manage land for a wide range of purposes. There appears no readily accessible information on the extent of land held by the Local Authorities and as we describe earlier identifying suitable communication routes has been challenging. Therefore, for the limited purpose of providing an indication of the order of magnitude of the extent of land owned by local authorities, the Group has used an existing estimate.
(vii) Scottish Water owns land, including around reservoirs/catchments, to protect water supplies.
(viii) Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority own a small amount of land such as car parks and picnic areas at visitor facilities. Cairngorms National Park Authority does not own land. The land within the National Parks is principally split between private land owners, FES, SNH and Scottish Water. The National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 sets out that a National Park Authority is not regarded as a servant or agent of the Crown and that its property is not of, or held on behalf of, the Crown.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh ( RBGE)
(ix) RBGE now extends over four Gardens - in Edinburgh, at Benmore in Argyll, at Dawyck in the Borders and at Logan in Dumfries and Galloway - and is a world-renowned centre for plant science and education. The Gardens also provide amenity to the public.
Main Research Providers
(x) The Scottish Agricultural College, The James Hutton Institute and the other research providers own, lease and manage land, principally farms, to assist in the programmes of research commissioned by Scottish Ministers and others.
Scottish Environment Protection Agency ( SEPA)
(xi) SEPA owns negligible amounts of land.
Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture ( SASA)
(xii) The SASA farm estate is owned and managed to meet statutory and regulatory responsibilities under national, European Union and other international legislation and agreements on plant health, bee health, variety registration and crop improvement, genetic resources, regulation of genetically-modified organisms and the protection of crops, food and the environment.
Other Scottish Public Bodies
(xiii) Others that own or administer small land assets include: Historic Scotland, Scottish Prisons Service, Transport Scotland, Caledonian Maritime Assets, Canals Scotland, Highlands & Islands Airport and Scotland's two Enterprise Agencies - Highland & Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise.
Map 1: Scottish Government Rural Land Assets