Scotland’s biggest landowner demands £6m for community buyout of moorland

Vast swathes of rural Scotland are still controlled by landowners and quangos, rather than run by the people who live there, writes Brian Wilson

General Assembly 2019

Pictured together at the opening of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland – His Grace Richard Walter John Montagu Douglas Scott, The Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, KBE, DL, FSA, FRSE who represented HM The Queen as the Lord High Commissioner to the Assembly; Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and the Rt Rev Colin Sinclair, who was installed as Moderator in 2019.

By Brian Wilson

In his invaluable work, Our Scots Noble Families, Tom Johnston did not spare the blushes (an unlikely commodity) of the Buccleuchs.

Then as now – he was writing in 1909 – they were Scotland’s biggest landowners.

Descended from Border thieves, land pirates and freebooters, they still boast their pedigree.

The blood of knaves and moonlighters has by process of snobbery become blue blood; lands raped from the weak and the unfortunate now support arrogance in luxury…,” he wrote.


I was reminded of the Buccleuch pedigree on reading that the community trying to buy a fraction of their lands – moorland rich only in the natural heritage of Scotland – are being charged £6 million and the begging-bowl is being passed round.


In order to use the land to the benefit of the population at large, donations are required so the loot can be transferred to the ample coffers of Buccleuch Estates.

It is obscene. And it also reminds us how little progress has been made on Scottish land reform.

Also on the land front, I was contacted about a developing episode in the Assynt area of Sutherland where Scottish Natural Heritage is spending £420,000 to fence a vast area of an absentee-owned estate in order to protect “native woodland” from deer.

Assynt Community Council has complained bitterly that there was no consultation about displacement of the deer and that “several estates in our area have been fencing off large areas to protect trees, using the project money as a cash cow to keep the estates running”.


The ghastly combination of greedy landowners and arrogant quangos continues to dominate vast swathes of rural Scotland – and not a political finger is now raised to change that.

The painting at the top is from the National Gallery of Scotland as is called Distraining for Rent by David Wilkie, which depicts a farmer and his family on the cusp of eviction for being unable to pay the rent to a landowner. Editor

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