The 'squeezed middle': Identifying and addressing conflicting demands on intermediate quality farmland in Scotland

Bill Slee*, Iain Brown, David Donnelly, Iain J. Gordon, Keith Matthews, Willie Towers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The growing demand for a wide range of private and public goods and services from a finite land resource is increasingly challenging for planners at local, regional, national and international scales. The Scottish Government's development of a Land Use Strategy has given salience to resolving conflicts and enhancing synergies in land use. In Scotland, the poorest quality farmland is often designated for nature and landscape conservation and the highest quality farmland often protected for food production. This means that many of the competitive pressures on land are experienced in what we term the 'squeezed middle'. The paper identifies the multiple (and not exclusively economic) drivers of land use choices and, through an ecosystem services lens, explores three particular areas of land use conflict. These are (i) the continued high level of public support for farming, which has done little to address the problem of low farm incomes; (ii) the pressure to increase woodland planting on farm (and other) land; and (iii) conflicts associated with intensive game management, especially on sporting estates. Using the Scottish situation as an example, the heterogeneity of land use pressures means that there is a danger of the principles of the Land Use Strategy becoming lost in translation from national policy to practical land use decision-making. The appropriate scale for delivery of integrated ecosystem services may therefore be more local than current pilot projects, and may require more active participation of land managers. It may also require policy instruments that are more flexible in adapting to the local context, including payments for ecosystem services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-216
Number of pages11
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Ecosystem services
  • Land Use Strategy
  • Multi-functionality
  • Squeezed middle

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