Scotland’s independent think tank
Scotland’s independent think tank

Reform Scotland calls for major post-brexit changes to Scotland’s land use

UK’s departure from the Common Agricultural Policy should spark a debate about the future of rural Scotland, says Reform Scotland

Reform Scotland, the independent, non-partisan think tank, today calls on Scotland’s policy-makers to use Brexit as an opportunity to design a land-use strategy fit for the 21st century.

For the last 40 years, land use and agricultural policy have been dictated by the CAP. Many of the rules and regulations are outdated, counter-productive and even harmful, in a nation where 98% of the land mass qualifies as rural. 

In a new discussion paper, “Land of Opportunity – Towards a new Land Use Strategy for Scotland”, land expert John Glen outlines where change is needed and proposes a series of next steps.

Calling for a mature and inclusive debate involving policy-makers and all interested parties, Glen suggests focusing on the following areas:

  • A more balanced and environmentally sustainable use of Scotland’s natural resources and land means embracing new technology in order to create opportunities for future generations. This will inevitably accelerate the decline of some traditional activities.
  • As we leave the CAP, state intervention and subsidy in rural areas must be rethought. This should include variable VAT, changes to property and inheritance tax rules, and a variety of environmentally-focused incentives and penalties.
  • The creation of a new framework that places a monetary value on the impairment or consumption of natural capital, as an environmental protection measure.
  • A better balance in our eco-system so that it simultaneously provides services such as food while protecting wildlife and the natural environment.
  • The adoption of a redistributive “rural Barnett formula”. 

“In Scotland we often discuss who owns the land, but seldom discuss what we actually want to use the land for.

“With Brexit and our departure from the Common Agricultural Policy, we must now get serious about how we manage and support rural Scotland to everyone’s benefit.

“There needs to be a wide-ranging national conversation about rural land use and about what works and what doesn’t in the 21st century, including how best to direct taxpayers’ money in a way that benefits the environment, population and economy. This will involve some hard decisions, but these can no longer be avoided.

“We are entering a new world as we leave the EU and become masters of our own fate. With one in ten Scottish jobs tied to agriculture, we need to make that new world work for us.”

John Glen


  1. Land of Opportunity – Towards a new Land Use Strategy for Scotland can be downloaded below.
  2. About John Glen: After graduating with a masters in Economics from Edinburgh University, John spent 20 years working with Unilever including 5 years in Germany, 5 years in the U.S.  and 2 years in France in a varied range of industries from cosmetics, to Frozen Fish to re-engineering the U.S tomato paste sourcing operation. He then joined Air Liquide S.A. As CFO based Paris, which is the world’s leading industrial gas business supplying Oxygen, Nitrogen and Hydrogen to many industries across the globe. 8 years later in late 2008 he returned to Scotland after 28 years and became CEO of Buccleuch which manages all the business operations of the Duke of Buccleuch and his family. During the next decade he focussed the business on 3 key Strategic Sectors, Commercial Property, Energy, and Hospitality and Tourism. During his tenure he faced many of the challenges highlighted in this paper, from Agriculture, Forestry,the demise and legacy of extractive industries and was a member of the Scottish Government’s Coal task force, to Coal Bed Methane and how to regulate it, Community Land negotiations, developed a portfolio of Renewable Energy projects across a number of technologies including Wind,Solar,Anaerobic Digestion, and a consented Hydro Electric scheme on the site of an abandoned open cast mine site. As part of the latter he helped set up the Sanqhar Academy Energy initiative whereby senior school pupils at the school decide and distribute the income generated from 2 wind turbines on the open cast coal site, for projects in their community. During his tenure Buccleuch invested significantly in developing Restoration Yard as a hospitality destination on the Dalkeith Country Park. He was a member of the private sector initiative 20:20 Climate Change Group and was co-Chair for 3 years of the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital. He stepped down from Buccleuch in November 2019 and joined DC Thomson as Group COO, in January 2020.
  3. Reform Scotland is Scotland’s independent, non-partisan think tank, with a commitment to: 
  • Increasing prosperity
  • A positive climate for entrepreneurs and innovators
  • Reform and modernisation of public services
  • Widening opportunity for all
  • Compassion for those who slip through the cracks
  • Greater courage and appetite for risk among policy-makers.

For media contact Message Matters (Andy Maciver, 07855 261 244, [email protected])


Land of Opportunity – Towards a new Land Use Strategy