Cholera was common in early 19th century Glasgow where there was no piped water supply, killing thousands, according to Athole McKillop, Partner and Head of Forestry at Galbraith.

When engineers began piping an unlimited supply of fresh water to the city, cases dropped significantly, saving countless lives, he told guests at a reception hosted by Scottish Land & Estates. A network completed in 1859 still delivers up to 230m litres of water a day to Glasgow.

Stewardship of natural capital benefits entire populations, reducing waste, bringing cleaner water, adequate food and decreased pollution, while addressing the threats of climate change and biodiversity collapse.

Scottish rural land managers gathered at the SLE event to better understand new policy and market environments and prepare for challenges and opportunities to create wealth and generate employment.

“It’s important to know and understand what you have and be able to express it in terms the market will understand,” said Athole McKillop. “There is unlikely to be a single answer, but rather a blend of opportunities and solutions. While the public sector is struggling with solutions, the private sector can lead. But you should be prepared to collaborate.”

Graeme Leith (L), Jenny Healy (R)

Graeme Leith, Partner at Brodies, said investor appetite for forestry had increased in the past three years, with typical investor profile moving from wealthy individuals to institutions looking to develop their own policies for carbon sequestration to offset CO2 emissions.

Despite the development of Carbon Codes to encourage and regulate sequestration, uncertainty and inconsistency remained over the pricing of carbon credits and “a lot needs to be fleshed out”.

Current Scottish land reform proposals included ensuring tenants and communities benefited from offset payments.

Clarity was lacking on the taxation of natural capital assets as the Government is yet to legislate in this area.  At present the taxation is following that of the underlying asset but there is uncertainty as to whether this would continue, said Jenny Healy, Partner at Saffery Champness.

For many Estates IHT is ‘a key driver’ so the impact on APR and BPR needs to be understood before making any decisions on Natural Capital assets.  A further aspect for consideration is the VAT position of PIUs and WTUs.  HMRC’s stance is that these are not taxable meaning input VAT is not recoverable, this is something that we are challenging based on our reading of the legislation.

  • Natural Capital: Galbraith’s expert advisers guide our clients in realising value in all land uses – by assessing and measuring natural assets, furthering opportunities in biodiversity net gain, and ensuring stakeholders are rewarded fully for their investment in and contribution to delivering ecosystem services and net-zero outcomes.