Next Generation Partners

Firms To Watch: Agriculture and estates

Stronachs LLP’s agricultural practice is jointly led by David Marshall  (who was elevated to the partnership last year) and Jaclyn Russell  in Aberdeen and frequently advises large farming enterprises and landowners. The team handles property transactions and renewable energy projects.

Agriculture and estates in Scotland

Anderson Strathern

Anderson Strathern maintains an excellent market reputation handling a variety of agricultural mandates, particularly across the renewable energy sector for an impressive roster of regional clients, including major estate owners. The practice has a busy workload advising clients across the wind, solar and hydro-power areas on large-scale projects and developments, and property litigation, leveraging its firm wide disputes capability. Practice head John Mitchell retains his strength in sale and purchase of estates and farms, whilst Adele Nicol who is praised by peers is active in rural property matters covering residential tenancies. Others in the team include Fiona Gibb who advises on succession matters, Anne Chapman who specialises in onshore gas exploration and Sheonagh Richards who advises on forestry and land reform.

Practice head(s):

John Mitchell

Other key lawyers:

Fiona Gibb; Anne Chapman; Sheonagh Richards; Robin Beattie; Adele Nicol

Testimonials

‘Anderson Strathern have a compelling energy, which is committed to the client whilst also upholding the risk analysis of the work required. Something I have noticed since working with Anderson Strathern is their ability to be adaptable in any situation which is achieved through regular communication of all of the options available.’

‘Robin Beattie has an excellent knowledge of the sector, both the law and practice. He is pragmatic and always takes time to understand the client’s needs.’

The team works well as a unit and brings a depth of experience and knowledge.’

Key clients

The Buccleuch Estates Limited

Crown Estate Scotland

Roxburghe Estates

The National Trust for Scotland

Dumfries Estate

Littlewood Estate

Castle Milk and Corrie Estates

Errol Estate

Aberchalder Estate

Carnbroe Estate

Elgin Energy Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised Dumfries Estate LLP on the complex restoration arrangements and related agreements for former opencast coal site at Grievehill and Garleffan.
  • Advised Oxbury Bank plc in relation to their Scottish lending documentation and on in excess of £11m secured lending over 19 farms in Scotland since April 2021 for 12 different borrowers.
  • Advised Elgin Energy Esco Limited on Scottish property and grid aspects of the sale of the consented solar energy projects at Milltown and Speyslaw to Iberdrola/ Scottish Power Renewables.

Brodies LLP

Highlighted for its ‘excellent personal service’, the rural practice at Brodies LLP remains a market favourite for rural landed estates, lenders, developers and farming businesses. The team advises on a blend of agricultural matters including commercial rural estates, renewable energy projects for landowners, and land registration. Practice head Clive Philips is rated by clients and oversees the group from Aberdeen, which includes accredited specialist Odell Milne, who advises on compulsory purchases, and Alex Buchan, who is a key name for agricultural tenancies. Forestry transactions across Scotland are dealt with by Graeme Leith, while Kate McLeish acts for landed estates on sales and acquisitions. In the Highlands, Karren Smith was promoted to the partnership and handles all manner of commercial property work and crofting law.

Practice head(s):

Clive Phillips

Other key lawyers:

Odell Milne; Alex Buchan; Graeme Leith; Kate McLeish; Karren Smith

Testimonials

Kate McLeish has been remarkable, she has always been at the end of a phone to guide us through the whole process. She has worked so hard to put every thing in place to enable us to buy our new farm.’

‘Good commercial knowledge combined with technical knowledge of land law.’

Excellent personal service, great honest advice, may not always be what you want to hear but straight talking and practical, excellent knowledge, up front with costs, no unwanted bill surprises.’

A large team dedicated to rural estates and farms with considerable knowledge in this niche sector. Clive Phillips is both a solicitor and a farmer, so has first hand experience in the practicalities of rural work as well as the legal.

‘The team at Brodies are amazingly organised efficient and polite. All-round good value and provide a regular update on where all outstanding matters are plus their time incurred which is extremely helpful.’

‘Alex Buchan in the Real Estate (land agriculture and rural business) is the most helpful of lawyers.’

‘Attentive and always available.’

Key clients

Gladstone Family

Innes Estates/Innes Trading Company Limited

Bagger-Sorensen Group

Glen Tanar Estate/Michael Bruce

Andrew Booth/Savock Farms

Cooke Aquaculture

Ben Alder Estate

Seafield & Reidhaven Estates

Dunecht Estates

2 Sisters Ltd

Co-op

Scottish Woodlands

Marine Harvest/ Cooke Aquaculture (International Fish-farming giants)

Scottish Land & Estates

Boralex Europe Sarl

Andrew Graham and Sons

Jacobs

West Lothian Council

Perth & Kinross Council

Work highlights

  • Assisting the Calcott family with the acquisition of Blelack and Balnastraid Farms, Logie Coldstone
  • Acting on behalf of Clydesdale Bank plc in the provision of banking facilities of over £2m to Organic Sea Harvest Limited and parent companies.

Gillespie Macandrew LLP

Gillespie Macandrew LLP has demonstrable strength across the agricultural landscape handling significant estate and forestry transactions, diversification projects and renewable energy matters. Under the leadership of Robert Scott-Dempster, who is singled out for his expertise in rural businesses, the practice is skilled in high-value sales and purchases of large-scale estates and farms. In Perth, accredited agriculture specialist Mike Blair advises on sporting rights and environmental issues, while Alan White is the name for renewable projects for landowners and developers; salmon fishing rights are a specialty for Murray Soutar. The Edinburgh-based Fraser Leslie handles leasing and commercial arrangements for rural projects and the team is backed by strong associates including Jennifer Munro and Amy Eakin, who recently joined from Turcan Connell.

Practice head(s):

Robert Scott-Dempster

Other key lawyers:

Jennifer Munro; Amy Eakin; Mike Blair; Murray Soutar; Alan White; Fraser Leslie

Testimonials

‘The two main standout partners that we deal with are Robert Scott-Dempster and Fraser Leslie. They have a very calm reassurance of giving advice that encourage confidence and trust in what they are doing and we know that we are being very well guided.’

‘Gillespie Macandrew are just good to work with. They are a multidisciplinary law firm with a genuinely good range of skill sets who provide sound advice in a reasonable timescale. They are proactive and particularly strong in landed estate, renewable work and conveyancing work.’

‘Robert Scott-Dempster is a very sound and experienced strategic private client lawyer who specialises in landed estates – now a rare commodity in the ever specialising world of legal services. Fraser Leslie is exceptional in the field of renewables.’

‘This legal team is very professional and accommodating. All members are excellent communicators and very pleasant to work with. They have a great depth and range of knowledge and no request seems to trouble them. The unique aspect is the ethos right across the team, and at all times. This puts them head and shouldes above other legal firms.’

‘Murray Soutar is the stand out partner. It is his style, manner, knowledge and positivity that is reflected in all the others.’

‘Murray Soutar is a very good all rounder and very efficient in dealing with matters.’

‘Alan White has a sound knowledge of all rural matters but has specific expertise in agricultural tenancy issues.’

Shepherd and Wedderburn

Housed in Aberdeen under the leadership of highly rated Hamish Lean who is ‘on top of his game’, the rural property team at Shepherd and Wedderburn handles agricultural matters for large landowners and farmers. The team is active in clean energy mandates and rural litigation matters and counts The Woodland Trust as a key client. Accredited agricultural specialist Stuart Greenwood advises on the sale and purchase of landed estates whilst Richard Leslie is the name for renewable energy projects across Scotland. For hydro schemes and biomass systems, associate Emma Robertson is the contact. Katie McNab advises on both residential and agriculture property transactions. The practice secured a major boost in mid-2022 with the hire of a six-lawyer team from Blackadders LLP led by Petra Grunenberg.

Practice head(s):

Hamish Lean

Other key lawyers:

Emma Robertson; Katie McNab; Stuart Greenwood; Richard Leslie; Peter Smith; Petra Grunenberg; Ellen Eunson; Hazel Anderson

Testimonials

Shepherd and Wedderburn have the expertise and personnel like no other within the Agriculture and estates sector. The experience, knowledge and skill of their staff is of the highest level,’

What stands out for me Hamish Lean is not only his superior knowledge of the legals but how he uses excellent communication and people skills to share this with his clients and come to sensible approach on how to use these.’

I find the team I work with to be professional, motivated and personable. I find there online property hub where they file deeds and leases to be very useful.’

‘I value Katie McNab and Stuart Greenwood’s advice and pragmatic approach to our recent land purchases. One of our largest land deals in recent years concluded quickly and without issue which I think proves their ability to get the job done.’

We have been very impressed with S&W. To complete both land deals were very complicated and S&W always explained everything well and we were in safe hands while the deal was concluded.’

‘Petra Grunenberg looks after us as customers to a very high standard.’

‘Ellen Eunson has been great whilst we’ve bought new land. Great attention to detail. Also provides us with options and explains each option so well.’

Key clients

The Woodland Trust

Work highlights

  • Acting for The Woodland Trust in its acquisition of Couldoran Estate for £3.6m as an addition to its existing property at Ben Shieldaig.
  • Acting for the Woodland Trust in developing an innovative solution to assist a community body, the Langholm Initiative, in helping to fund the buy-out of Langholm Moor from Buccleuch Estate.

Harper Macleod LLP

Harper Macleod LLP has ‘huge breadth of knowledge and experience’ in the rural sector and handles land registration issues, crofting, and landed estate matters. Acting as part of its energy and natural resources group, the team handles forestry transactions and renewable energy projects for leading clients including Forestry and Land Scotland and NatureScot. Practice head Graeme Nisbet advises on diversification projects and agricultural tenancies. Calum MacLeod in Inverness is the contact for community ownership work. Glasgow based associate Tom Gray is ‘genuinely excellent‘ according to clients and is the key contact for forestry and estate purchases.

Practice head(s):

Graeme Nisbet

Other key lawyers:

Calum MacLeod; Tom Gray

Testimonials

‘There is a huge breadth of knowledge and experience in this organisation. If something unexpected crops up there is always a colleague to turn to who has the experience needed to deal with it. Egos do not get in the way of getting things done. This gives me as a client confidence in the whole team. I usually work with Tom Gray, with whom I have a very good relationship.’

Harper Macleod’s greatest strength is their ability to quickly source a relevant legal specialist from their in-house team. In addition, the swiftness of their response to emails and telephone calls is outstanding and it is clear they care about your projects and value you as a client.’

‘Tom Gray’s performance has been genuinely excellent and we can only imagine how hard he works behind the scenes to achieve this level of service to not only us but to his other clients as well. During the various legal proceedings in connection with the above sale of land, Tom consistently met deadlines, turned information and documents around fast and responded to third-party solicitors very quickly.’

‘Tom Gray was utstanding and very professional, the job was completed with care and precision and I was very pleased with the service.’

‘A really good team that dealt with our needs in a friendly manner and made the legal process understandable.’

Tom Gray’s works is extremely thorough and his decisions and advice is well thought through. He is extremely knowledgeable in his field and you get the feeling that he is ambitious through the level of professionalism he delivers.

‘Calum Macleod is very easy to deal with and gives good advice in sometimes complex scenarios.

Key clients

Forestry and Land Scotland

HSBC Bank UK plc

Craignathro Farms Limited

The Langholm Initiative

Scottish Forestry

Douglas West Community SCIO

D.Marshall Enterprises Limited

Speyside Distillers Company Limited

EnergieKontor UK Limited

Statkraft UK Limited

Inchinnan Development Trust Limited

NatureScot

Ornamental Trees Limited

Work highlights

  • Acted on behalf of Inchinnan Development Trust in the acquisition of woodland which represents a key community asset and will be utilised as a key green space for all members of the community into the future.
  • Acted on behalf of the Langholm Initiative in the largest ever community buyout in the South of Scotland of over 2,000 hectares of the Tarras Valley from Buccleuch Estate, with the creation of a nature reserve at the heart of its plans.
  • Acted for Forestry and Land Scotland in significant acquisitions of large areas of planting ground across Scotland with the aim of planting mixed broadleaf plantations contributing to the continued success of the Scottish Ministers annual forestry planting targets which supports ambitious Net Zero targets.

Ledingham Chalmers LLP

Ledingham Chalmers LLP’s rural practice advises large agricultural family business on succession planning, sales, and transactional work. Co-head of the department Gary Webster is noted for his ‘excellent detailed knowledge’ and assists several clients across the Highlands on property transactions, whilst Aberdeen-based co-head Hazel Moir handles purchases and sales of estates and other businesses. The team, which includes Jim Drysdale, added succession planning expert JP Campbell to its partnership in Inverness as well as Emily Flett-Grant, who joined from Anderson Strathern. Elsewhere, Linda Tinson leads the Stirling office and excels in diversification projects and agricultural holdings.

Practice head(s):

Hazel Moir; Linda Tinson; Gary Webster

Other key lawyers:

Jim Drysdale; JP Campbell; Emily Flett-Grant

Testimonials

‘Hazel Moir as a Partner is an understated genius when it comes to transactions.’

‘Ledingham Chalmers LLP provide excellent attention to their clients, always responding quickly and with strong attention to detail to any specific needs.’

‘With experience and expertise across many sectors, they are able to advise on a huge range of issues, including very niche situations.’

‘Gary Webster provides a fantastic service to our companies. As a complex project, with multiple companies involved, with often quite unique situations, he has been able to tackle all scenarios we have approached him with.’

‘They have a breadth of knowledge that enables a full service offering but with depth and offering a broad skill set.’

‘They are collaborative and work well with other professionals in an inclusive way, welcoming input and considering the wider issues. They are excellent to deal with and interact in an enjoyable way and with good client outcomes.’

‘Gary Webster has excellent detailed knowledge in the fast-moving market of land, estates and agriculture.’

‘From the initial meeting we felt confident that they would look after us with empathy but at the same time give us realistic suggestions and advice. We always felt confident that they were acting on our behalf and communicated with us regularly. ‘

Key clients

Solarsanctuary/Highlands Rewilding Limited

Lindsays

Housed in Edinburgh, the agriculture practice at Lindsays is singled out for its expertise in handling large landed estate sales, acquisitions and transactional mandates for a diverse client base including the Duke of Argyll. The team advises on a broad range of rural diversification matters and is headed by Michael Yellowlees who remains the key contact for feudal dignities. Landowner and large developer clients regularly instruct Susan Law on renewable energy deals, particularly across the offshore wind space – including Scottish Water and Ethical Power. At the associate level, Tim Macdonald and Leanne Gordon handle agricultural tenancies and rural property work respectively.

Practice head(s):

Michael Yellowlees

Other key lawyers:

Susan Law; Tim MacDonald; Leanne Gordon

Testimonials

‘Tim MacDonald was extremely personable, enthusiastic and helpful.’

It’s obvious that the team know the sector inside out and can advise on a wide range of issues.’

‘They did everything in a timely way and were easy to deal with.’

Key clients

His Grace, Torquhil Campbell, 13th Duke of Argyll, Chief of Clan Campbell, – Argyll Estates

William Astor, 4th Viscount Astor – Tarbert Estate

Donald Cameron of Lochiel, Lord of Lochaber, Chief of the Clan Cameron – Achnacarry and Lochiel Estates

British Wool Marketing Board

Alex Howard, 5th Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal

Fothringham Estate Company Limited – Fothringham Estate

Thomas Steuart Fothringham, Baron Murthly – Murthly and Strathbraan Estates

CWL Energy Limited/Community Windpower Limited

Scottish Water

The Pairc Trus

Lord Godfrey Macdonald of Macdonald, Chief of Clan Macdonald

R Whiteford & Son/Robin Whiteford

Ethical Power

Josephine Marshall Trust, Barguillean Estate

Work highlights

  • Advised Community Windpower on a renewable energy agreement for windfarm.
  • Advised on a high-value sale of a farm for natural capital for James Frank Forrest.
  • Acted for Scottish Water in negotiations for a thermal heat agreement at a key waste-water treatments works.

Murray Beith Murray

Noted for its ‘absolute excellence in trust and tax work’, the boutique practice at Murray Beith Murray has a long-established presence in the agricultural sector and works in tandem with its wider private client group to handle the full gamut of matters pertaining to rural property transactions, wealth management and succession planning. Under the leadership of accredited specialist Andrew Linehan, the team also advises on diversification, environmental issues and sporting estates. Anna MacLeod focuses on high-value estate sales, and another key name is Hugh Younger.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Linehan

Other key lawyers:

Anna MacLeod; Hugh Younger

Testimonials

‘Absolute excellence in Trust and Tax work, able to give direct and sometimes difficult advice to private clients. Importantly they work collaboratively with the wider professional teams.’

‘Stand out staff as follows: Hugh Younger – possesses an unrivaled wealth of experience and total understanding of the drivers and motivations of private rural clients.’

‘Andrew Linehan gives clear well-thought-through advice and is easily accessible.’

Key clients

Mansfield Estate

Work highlights

  • Acted for a family owning several highland estates on a substantial sale of land to a major UK financial institution, for establishment as a carbon offset woodland.
  • Undertaking a major title registration process for a significant Estate, including carrying out detailed mapping of the owned land and considering a range of third party and infrastructure rights.
  • Advised on the property aspects of a high-value Estate transfer as part of inter-generational tax planning.

Thorntons Law LLP

The rural practice at Thorntons Law LLP provides a ‘fantastic service’ to landed estates, farming and rural businesses in Scotland, and leverages its full-service practice across private clients and dispute resolution. The team advises landowners and trusts on estate purchases, renewable projects and development work, as well as fishings transactions. Kenneth Mackay heads the team which features experienced practitioners Susan Duff who handles agricultural leasing and forestry matters, and Christopher Lindley who advises on the sale of sporting estates. Other key contacts include Debbie Dewar and Robin Dunlop; handling fishing projects and rural property matters respectively.

Practice head(s):

Kenneth Mackay

Other key lawyers:

Christopher Lindley; Debbie Dewar; Robin Dunlop; Susan Duff

Testimonials

‘Robin Dunlop at Thorntons stands out at being approachable, at ease at explaining scenarios, proactive in speaking to other solicitors and coming up with solutions proactively.’

‘Fantastic service delivered in a charismatic way. Friendly, confident and professional.’

‘After a year of service the company and land team understand our needs and outcomes.’

‘Delivery is precise accurate and articulated in a way that is understandable.’

‘Any legal issues that crop up are dealt with quickly and professionally.’

‘Debbie Dewar has shown excellent tenacity, common sense, relevant knowledge and attention to detail to ensure that we got the right result in the face of inefficient and inconsistent other parties.’

‘Christopher Lindley is excellent and a real expert in his field. However, he is also able to provide practical and sensible advice to help his clients achieve what they want to do without any legal jargon.’

‘The team at Thorntons demonstrates a wide range of knowledge and insight in all matters that we are involved in. They have been particularly good at listening to us, their clients, and not overstepping their brief.

Key clients

Scottish Water

Davidson Chalmers Stewart

At Davidson Chalmers Stewart, the practice continues to be strong on diversification projects, acting for farmers, large estate owners, investors and major commercial food producers. Led by Andy Drane, the team handles large transactional mandates and has seen an uptick in renewable energy projects and work involving carbon credits. Agricultural litigation and partnership disputes also feature in caseload. Louise Jones is skilled in secured lending matters, whilst Andrew McDonald handles the contentious offering. The team enhanced its offering with the hire of Henrietta Macpherson who joined from Cockburns.

Practice head(s):

Andy Drane

Other key lawyers:

Andrew McDonald; Louise Jones; Henrietta Macpherson

Testimonials

‘Davidson Chalmers Stewart carefully builds relationships with their clients to understand their requirements. For those estates looking to diversify, they understand many of the issues, and have the breadth of capability and vision to aid the client through to successful delivery.’

‘Andy Drane has very methodically pulled together the various strands for the opportunities that have arisen on the estate and where possible has connected potential interested parties looking to develop projects with the estate.’

Key clients

Alex Brewster & Sons Limited

Afp Assets Limited

Cambusmore Estates Limited

Charlesfield Farms Limited

John Stewart Duncan & Two Other Tenant Farmers

John P Gray & Son

Kenneth Greenland

Mcmaster Consortium Of Farmers

Rt Overseas Settlement

Woodland Renewables Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised Cambusmore Estates Limited and others on the sale of Cambusmore Estate, By Dornoch.
  • Advised a consortium of Tenant farmers in seeking judicial review of legislation introduced by the Scottish Parliament and seeking compensation at the Supreme Court.
  • Advised Kenneth Greenland in connection with the grant of rights to five renewables developments in the far North East of Scotland.

Morton Fraser

Morton Fraser receives a steady stream of instructions across rural property transactions, renewable development projects and agricultural tenancies. Now under the leadership of Matthew Barclay, the team has core strength in crofting law with experienced practitioners Gail Watt and Martin Minton being key names; both have expertise acting for crofting landlords in sales, purchases and decrofting matters.

Practice head(s):

Matthew Barclay

Other key lawyers:

Gail Watt; Martin Minton

Testimonials

‘Attention to detail and responsiveness to clients and difficult situations. Depth of knowledge and back up along with the ability to provide clear and uncomplicated advice to clients.’

‘The practice has great depth of knowledge in all aspects of Scottish Estate management and land issues not only in traditional areas such as crafting law and agricultural tenure but also in more modern aspects such as wind farm negotiations. The team that advises me is entirely female and the commitment to my needs is exceptionally thorough.’

‘Gail Watt is my main contact. She has negotiated the lease of a wind farm over several complicated titles. Her knowledge and advice was of an exceptional quality such that for the other side commented on her qualities! The outcome she achieved for me could not have been bettered. She has also dealt with a tricky problem of crofting tenure flowing out of a Land Court decision and although on going it looks like the desired outcome will be achieved. ‘

Key clients

Scottish Mines Restoration Trust Limited

Private Landowner (A)

Family Trust

South of Scotland Enterprise

Private Landowner (B)

The Scottish Ministers

Scottish Wildlife Trust

Highland Estate Owner

Community Owned Highland Estate

Shona and Mark Thompson

Work highlights

  • Acting on behalf of a private landowner in the sale of their farm involving complex trust, tax and property issues, having secured a significant sale premium.
  • Acting on behalf of South of Scotland Enterprises in connection with the financing of the widely publicised community buyout of Langholm Moor.
  • Acting on behalf of Shona and Mark Thomson in connection with the opposition of a Compulsory Purchase Order of their entire property for the building of a substation and associated cabling for a high profile offshore windfarm.

Blackadders LLP

At Blackadders LLPPhilip Buchan was recently appointed as the new head of rural land and business following the departure of a team to Shepherd and Wedderburn. The practice has a track record of work on land purchases and sales, agricultural tenancies and has seen increased activity in the renewable energy space, advising on solar energy development and battery storage sites.

Practice head(s):

Philip Buchan

Burness Paull LLP

At Burness Paull LLP, the agriculture practice is active in the purchase and sale of large farms and estates and diversification projects. The team advises on commercial property transactions across Scotland and acquisitions. Director Colin Brown in Edinburgh is noted for his experience with crofting.

Other key lawyers:

Colin Brown

MacRoberts LLP

MacRoberts LLP has a focus on the purchase and sale of agricultural property and is now jointly managed by Kelsey Gibson and Gillian Campbell. The team advises both public and private sector organisations operating in Scotland. Experienced consultant John Macleod handles a range of property and private client matters and also has experience in renewable energy schemes.

Practice head(s):

Kelsey Gibson; Gillian Campbell

Other key lawyers:

John Macleod

Work highlights

  • Handling an off-market private and confidential sale of a farming Estate which is being sold for approximately £5m comprising farmland, woodland, several cottages and farmhouse for an offshore registered company.
  • Advising on a commercial forestry purchase for approximately £1.3m.