Key Points

  • The tight systems of ownership and control which characterised business in Scotland in the heyday of empire have been transformed.
  • Even in the 1970s, the structure of economic power was an amalgamation of old and new wealth, but since then, business takeovers have significantly weakened local ownership and control.
  • Iconic Scottish businesses – whisky, North Sea oil, and Scottish finance – are no longer in Scottish hands to any degree that matters.
  • Landownership in Scotland is highly concentrated in few hands, and that a mere ten owners hold more than 10% of private land.
  • Nevertheless, much of it is owned by ‘traditional’ landowning families going back more than a century.
  • The nexus of power and politics has nevertheless changed, notably in transforming the social character of Scotland’s political classes.
  • The key conundrum for Scottish politics is decision-making in the context in which so many material assets are not amenable to local control.