Mapping Scottish Landownership: Research Briefing

Research output: Book/Report/Policy Brief/Technical BriefResearch brief


What were we trying to find out?

We developed a methodology to determine if there is a relationship between
landownership and, firstly, land use decisions (a land use change, continuation on the
same path, diversification etc.), and secondly, monetary flows into land, and whether
either of these are affected by a recent sale (i.e. a sale triggers a change of land use
or a change of monetary flows). This is a multi-year process which is ongoing. In this
research briefing we present our work to date, which includes a working example of
an area of the Spey Catchment.

What did we do?

We utilised multiple data sources to compile a map representing land ownership,
recent sales, monetary flows and land use/land cover. This was a complicated task,
with a new method created to aid and partly automate this process. The main data set
utilised to map land transactions was purchased from the Registers of Scotland (RoS)
which proved very hard to work with due to multiple inconsistencies at the data entry
stage. Land ownership was mapped primarily with purchased Who Owns Scotland
data. Land use/cover was mapped using a suite of different data sources. When the
process was refined, it was applied to a small case study.

Parallel to the mapping work, a landownership typology was created. This is a seven-
fold typology that categorises individual parcels of land according to size, ownership,
land use, type (farm/forest/estate), size descriptor and any defining characteristics.
The ownership typology was then applied to the case study area. Multiple data sources
were used to map monetary flows.

What did we learn?

Spatially mapping landownership and recent sale transactions of land is complex and
arduous. Despite these issues, we still managed to create a working methodology for
mapping landownership using Registers of Scotland data, and successfully integrated
this with multiple other data sources. Through this process we have developed a tool
that is (once the landownership level is complete) fully automated and can produce
useful maps and descriptors of any piece of land in Scotland, so long as ownership is

What do we recommend and what happens next?

In the coming years of the project this mapping exercise will be applied to four case
study areas across Scotland (Tweed Catchment, Spey Catchment, Shetland Islands,
and Galloway and South Ayrshire Biosphere Reserve). The case study presented in
this Research Briefing is static in time, but we also intend to map these areas over
multiple historic years to track patterns in landownership, land use change and
monetary flows into land.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherSRUC's Rural Policy Centre
Commissioning bodyScottish Government
Number of pages42
Publication statusPrint publication - 30 Apr 2024


  • landownership
  • Scotland
  • Spatial mapping
  • GIS
  • land use

Rural Policy Centre Themes

  • Land use and land reform


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