Land-use and landscape implications of rapid rural restructuring : a case study in the north-east of Scotland
Extensive changes in British agriculture since the Second World War have increasingly been accompanied by growing public concern over associated change in the rural environment. Identifying and monitoring alterations in the countryside has gradually been supplemented by a research focus on the processes by which such changes occur. One particular factor understood to be involved in such change, which has attracted considerable attention, has been farm-level restructuring within the sector. This work applies previous research findings on the land-use and landscape impacts in respect of one aspect of restructuring; change in farm ownership, in a case study area in the North-East of Scotland. Adverse weather conditions in the mid-1980s resulted in severe financial difficulties for those farmers that had over-developed wheat production in an area marginal for cereal cultivation. Reports suggested that an unusually high proportion of agricultural properties were sold in Aberdeenshire as a result of this situation, and that the purchasers included a high number of in-migrants and those not previously involved in farming. This situation permitted the application of existing research on ownership restructuring and for due attention to be given to the associated locality-specific factors, which have been acknowledged as significant in processes of land-use and landscape change. The restructuring that had taken place was investigated with reference to data from the Scottish Office of Agriculture and Fisheries and in detail, using the Register of Sasines, for a sample constructed from advertisements for properties sold between 1987 and 1990. The land-use and landscape changes undertaken on these properties were examined in comparison with those on a sample of properties that had experienced no such restructuring, in order to distinguish the role played by this factor. Other variables relating to the characteristics of the farmer and the farm holdings and businesses themselves, which are also held to influence decision-making and land-use change, were investigated to ascertain their relative significance in determining countryside change.