Forestry was now clearly driving land prices across much of Scotland, with Evelyn Channing, head of farm and estates sales in Scotland for Savills, estimating that for every £1 invested so far there was another £6 waiting in the wings.
Reporting on last year’s transactions, she said the company had marketed four large estates in Wester Ross, Perthshire, Peeblesshire and Aberdeenshire for sale.
In every case the highest bids had come from forestry interests.
Sporting or agricultural interests were no longer setting the pace.
Apart from the good returns for timber and the tax advantages, individual investors were seeing forestry as a safe investment in turbulent times.
Ms Channing also pointed to a recent trend, especially in the Highlands, where buyers were interested in natural capital. It was a new style of investment which was hard to monetise but where there could be a return for delivering ecosystem services.
About 25 per cent of the potential buyers registered with Savills were international but they had accounted for 50 per cent of the estate land bought last year.
Moving to the lower ground and the agricultural market, Ms Channing saw demand as being ‘quite strong’ and totally dominated by farmers wishing to expand.
She said: “The variation on prices is quite massive and depends on competition between neighbours. We have sold some Class 3 land in Fife at £5,000 per acre and some at £16,000 per acre.
“People are not rushing in at all costs but are taking a 20-year view on what will be good for their businesses.”
Charles Dudgeon, Savills head of UK land and estate sales, added: “Scottish Government has said little about future support but our betting is the subsidy element will not affect land prices.
“Land now is mostly sold with the Basic Payment Scheme entitlements rather than keeping them separate.
“They are being partly discounted because people regard them as good as gone.
“On the other hand, diversification opportunities are making some farms worth more. An A-road going through a farm used to be seen as a negative, but now it could be an asset.”