This book represents the final synthesis of ‘Sustainable Estates for the 21st Century’, the largest in-house project undertaken to date at the Centre for Mountain Studies (CMS) at Perth College, University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI). Having established the CMS in 2000, I believed that it was important that its staff and students should be involved in a major project on a theme that was specific to Scotland’s mountains. After considerable reading and discussion, I realised that a project on large upland estates would be most appropriate. The first reason is that Scotland has the most concentrated pattern of private landownership in the world, a pattern that is even more exaggerated in the mountains, especially the Highlands. Over recent decades, some of these estates have been purchased by conservation nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and local communities, and the largest single landowner – though only partly in the mountains – is Forestry Commission Scotland. Nevertheless, private ownership remains dominant, a phenomenon that particularly characterises Scotland’s mountains. The second reason is that the ownership, and the related management, of land are key issues in Scotland, with a long and complex history tied to national identity. Consequently, after devolution in 1999, one of the priorities of the renewed Scottish Parliament was the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. Until the present project, no substantial study of estates had been undertaken since its passage. Finally, though there have been many studies of individual estates, or specific aspects of estate management, and some studies based on samples of tens or hundreds of landowners, there had never been a project that looked at a considerable number of estates – privately, community, and NGO owned – using common methodologies and aiming to draw overall conclusions about the implications of different types of landownership for the sustainable management of estates. Again, given the passage of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, such an integrated project appeared particularly timely.
The implementation of the project was made possible by the remarkable generosity of Henry Angest, the owner of an estate in Highland Perthshire. In late 2006, following discussions with Mandy Exley, then Principal of Perth College, UHI, and myself, Mr Angest agreed to fund fully a project including four studies – two on privately owned estates, and one each on community- and NGO-owned estates – and a oneyear synthesis phase. Each of the students who would undertake the studies would be allowed to choose their own topic for a PhD. We were fortunate to recruit four excellent students though, ultimately, one was not able to complete the PhD and the work . . .