Scotland for sale (but not to Scots)

from Paola De Carolis

More and more international tycoons are buying the most beautiful estates by the millions. The problem is that in their lands the new owners forbid hunting and thus deprive the residents of income

LONDON – The wild hills, the moors, the ocean coasts, the islands. Over the centuries, the Scottish landscape has conquered artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers: its wide expanses and its ancient estates now attract new owners who are attentive to the environment in search of a corner of paradise where to restore the balance of nature. A generous tax regime for foreign investments, an abundance of space and relatively low prices have transformed the autonomous region that makes up the northern part of the UK into a popular destination for international billionaires.

Danish entrepreneur Anders Holch Povlsena tycoon who is among the richest men in the world and who heads the fashion holding Bestseller (in 2019 he tragically lost three of his four children in the attack in Colombo, Sri Lanka), has something like 90,000 hectares in Scotland, making it the UK’s first private landowner. Follow the sisters Sigrid and Lisbet Rausingheirs of the Tetra Pak empire, with about 40,000 hectares, and several other wealthy entrepreneurs who in the expanses of Scotland have seen the opportunity to implement green projects, such as Camille and Christopher Bentley, Californians, who in 2020 for 11 million pounds, about 13 million euros, bought the Kildrummy estate, 2,200 hectares near the Highlands.

With the exception of Donald Trump, who in Aberdeenshire has a massive hotel and golf complex and a luxury hotel near Ayr, many other investors intend to restore the lands they bought to their natural state across the rewilding, renaturalization, restoring theoriginal ecosystem of the place and placing other practices, however ancient, such as hunting, are banned. The trend, highlighted by a recent Reuters investigation and a BBC documentary, although ecologically commendable could have negative implications for the population: less hunting means less tourism, less tourism, less work.

It is a problem that the autonomous government intends to limit with a new law on land ownership that will be introduced in 2023. At the moment, the 57% of rural land in Scotland is in private hands. For Mairi McAllan, minister for the environment, “the goal is to arrive at a more varied ownership formula, with community projects that allow the population to use the land in their area”. It is important, she pointed out, that Scotland help mitigate the effects of climate change but it is also important to help communities.


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