Scottish Land & Estates appoints new chair

Dee Ward

Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), the rural business organisation, has appointed Dee Ward as its new chair.

Ward succeeds Mark Tennant, who has been SLE chair since April 2020.

Ward is the owner of Rottal Estate, an upland estate in the Angus Glens of approximately 8,000 acres.

Rottal is managed in a way to integrate both land use and other business interests, with farming, grouse shooting, deer stalking all present alongside hydro-electric and biomass energy generation.

Rottal also has a wedding and events business.

The appointment comes a few months after SLE-commissioned research was published by economic consultancy BiGGAR Economics, demonstrating the contribution of estates to Scotland’s wellbeing economy.

The research showed estates generate an estimated £2.4 billion gross value added (GVA) a year for the Scottish economy and support 57,300 jobs – around 1 in 10 rural jobs.

Estates were also found to provide homes for 13,000 families and land for 14,000 rural enterprises whilst attracting an estimated 5.4 million Scottish residents annually to enjoy the natural environment.

“Under Dee’s leadership, the estate has also carried out extensive conservation projects, including restoring and re-naturalising rivers, burns, water margins, riparian planting, natural regeneration, native tree planting, wetland improvements, and flood mitigation and water quality improvements,” said Scottish Land & Estates.

“Serving as Vice Chair (Policy) of Scottish Land & Estates for the past three years, Dee is also chair of Wildlife Estates Scotland, an initiative that aims to promote the best habitat and wildlife management practices, build recognition and raise standards through an objective accreditation system.”

Ward said: “Huge change is on the horizon for rural Scotland but there are challenges and opportunities which I’m certain that farms and estates are well-placed to respond to.

“At my own estate at Rottal, we are trying to create the correct balance between a traditional sporting estate, food production, wildlife, biodiversity, habitat restoration and improvement, community engagement and responsible access.

“It’s often a hard balance to strike and is probably a good analogy for the balancing act that rural businesses across Scotland currently face.

“As an organisation, our members face multiple simultaneous challenges such as land reform, licensing of moorland management, uncertainty over the detail of the next generation farming subsidies, new regulation of both long and short-term housing and accommodation – and that’s without the change brought about by the pandemic and Brexit. There’s a lot to think about.

“We know the huge value that rural businesses including farms and estates provide to Scotland’s wellbeing economy and we are rightly viewed by government agencies as trusted delivery partners.

“That said, we continue to see some politicians disregard evidence-led policymaking, as highlighted by the recent changes to tenancy legislation.

“It is a real challenge, particularly for rural Scotland when what happens in urban areas tends to dominate the agenda.

“We want to continue working positively with government in the years to come as delivery partners on so much of what they seek to achieve, but we will also, when need be,  counter the many examples of badly drafted legislation that have come to the fore …

“Rural estates were described in the recent BiGGAR Economics research as ‘anchors’ of the rural economy, contributing heavily towards seven of the 11 outcomes that the Scottish Government has set in progress towards Scotland’s wellbeing economy.

“The Scottish Government is supportive of the findings of the research and recognises the private investment made by estates that allows government to deliver on its priorities.

“Estates can deliver because they operate at scale – and this is particularly important in the race to net zero and we will look to help shape meaningful policy and legislation which will enable rural Scotland to thrive and continue to deliver for the benefit for the whole of Scotland

“We are fully supportive of the need for different types of landownership – private, public, community and charitable – but would urge decision-makers to think about the far-reaching consequences of the latest land reform proposals on the environment, employment and communities.”