The Role of Private Landownership in Facilitating Sustainable Rural Communities in Upland Scotland

  • Andrene Jane McKee

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by OU/Aberdeen)


Privately-owned estates dominate Scotland’s uplands, and their owners’ decisions greatly influence rural communities. While the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 has altered power relations in rural areas, its impact on landowner-community dynamics has received little attention. Discourse on the contemporary ‘estate community’ and factors determining its ‘sustainability’ has also been minimal. The research reported here, involving in-depth
case studies on six, upland, private estates, aims to address these knowledge gaps and contribute to Scottish policy on sustainable land use and community development. Scoping interviews with a group of expert commentators informed the design of a national survey of private landowners, and this, in turn, facilitated case study selection. The research questions were explored through a triangulated method of household questionnaires, interviews with key actors (in the local community and in estate management), and
participant observation. This grounded, ethnographic approach generated an in-depth understanding of the threats and opportunities facing rural communities and private landowners in upland Scotland, in addition to the key factors required to promote their sustainability, and the constraints to achieving this goal. The results showed (i) that many key factors and constraints are shared by the estate and the community; (ii) that their
sustainability is interlinked; and therefore (iii) that estate-community interaction and positive engagement is crucial. Evaluation of estate-community interaction and engagement processes reveals opportunities and challenges for effective approaches. Evaluation of the prospects for landowner/estate-community partnership working illustrates the opportunities for mutual benefits, and the need for greater community empowerment to ensure partnership success. These findings are reinforced from a Habermasian perspective. Private landowners are recommended to adopt three key roles -
as contributor, enabler and partner - in order to contribute positively to estate community sustainability, and, in turn, to private estate sustainability and public legitimacy. The research informs a concluding set of best practice recommendations.
Date of Award27 Nov 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Edinburgh
SponsorsHenry Angest Foundation Scholarship
SupervisorMartin Francis Price (Supervisor) & Charles Warren (Supervisor)

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