Sustainable Estates for the 21st Century


DunalistairAligning upland estate management with sustainable development presents a great challenge as estate activities encompass property and land management, agriculture and sport, forestry, as well as access, recreation and other community aspects.

Four research projects began at the Centre for Mountain Studies in September 2007 in order to explore the concept of 'sustainable estate management'.

The projects studied different research questions related to estate management in upland Scotland and each was developed individually by three PhD students and one post-doctoral researcher, with support from their supervisory team.

Two of the dissertations focussed on privately-owned estates:

  • Landowner motivation and perceptions of sustainability; exploring visions for the future of the Scottish uplands (Pippa Wagstaff)
  • The role of private landownership in facilitating sustainable rural communities in upland Scotland (Annie McKee)


One studied community-owned estates:

  • A study of the experiences of internal and external actors in community-owned estate initiatives in Scotland (Dr Rob Mc Morran)


The final project took a broader approach to investigating sustainable development in the context of upland estate management.  This led to the development of a 'Sustainable Estates Toolkit' in tandem with a panel of key stakeholders.

  • The power of the research process: co-producing a sustainability assessment toolkit for upland estate management in Scotland (Dr Jayne Glass)


The projects were supervised by Professor Martin Price (Director, Centre for Mountain Studies), together with Dr Charles Warren (University of St. Andrews) and Professor Alister Scott (Birmingham City University).

To ensure the on-the-ground and policy relevance of the project, an Advisory Group provided feedback on the project's progress at regular intervals.  This group included representatives from the Scottish Government, Scottish Land and Estates, Scottish Environment LINK, the Cairngorms National Park Authority and the Knoydart Foundation.  The PhD studentships were funded by the Henry Angest Foundation.


Project results

Following the completion of the individual project, the work entered a synthesis phase in 2011-2012.  More detail about the projects on the external project website.

The Sustainable Estates team have produced a short booklet that explores the potential of collaborative initiatives between privately-owned rural estates, rural communities and other partners in upland Scotland.

This topic was explored in depth because it emerged as a key theme in the individual projects.  The booklet is based on evidence gathered from a range of sources.  It was informed in general by the whole Sustainable Estates project and, in particular, by Annie McKee’s study: ‘The role of the private landowner is facilitating sustainable rural communities’.

A draft of the booklet was presented at three workshops in Braemar (Cairngorms National Park), Cairndow (Argyll) and Lochinver (Sutherland) in October and November 2011.  At these events, a range of community members, rural estate representatives (from different types of estates) and other stakeholders gave feedback on the document and made suggestions for its improvement.  The comments received at the workshops and via the project website were incorporated into the final version, which is now available for download here

The delivery of the workshops and the production of the booklet were supported by a Small Knowledge Exchange Grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), with additional support from Scottish Land and Estates and the Scottish Government.

The full results of the project have been compiled within a book titled 'Lairds, Land and Sustainability: Scottish perspectives on upland management', published by Edinburgh University Press in 2013.

A full list of publications related to this project can be found on the Sustainable Estates for the 21st Century website.