Scotland experienced the strongest growth in land values in 2021 – up 31% overall, compared to just 6.2% across the whole of the UK, according to a new report from Scotland's Rural College (SRUC).

Furthermore, the poorest Scottish livestock ground, increased in value by a colossal 60.8%.

Researchers at SRUC found that over the past five years, more than 40% of Scottish farmland has been bought by investors and amenity buyers. These 'natural capital buyers' have also increased their expenditure on estates, with some £112m invested in Scottish estates in 2020 – a rise of 55% on 2010 figures.

Demand for commercial forestry from investors and financial institutions has also soared with average sale prices up 50% in 2021.

Professor Mark Reed, co-director of SRUC's Thriving Natural Capital Challenge Centre, who co-authored the report warned that the increases in land values also produced huge risk to land managers and rural communities.

Without buyer checks, the report said highly polluting industries could reach net zero by offsetting rather than reducing their emissions at source which in turn would seriously undermine the integrity of both markets and global political agreements.

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The report also revealed that while huge increases in land values benefit owners, they do exclude new entrants to farming and limit access to land by rural communities.

Prof Reed said: “Interest in natural capital and ecosystem markets is driving rapid and significant change in the land use sector across the UK, but these changes are layered on top of long-term and systemic issues in land markets, such as concentration of landownership, and other market drivers, such as timber prices.

He added that the report includes 16 options which if adopted could reduce these risks and enhance positive impacts of natural capital investment.