Skip to Content
23 Aug 2023

Poll shows near 5 to 1 majority support for Carbon Emissions Land Tax

A new opinion poll has revealed that 64 per cent of Scots support the introduction of a carbon emissions tax on Scotland’s largest landholdings, with just 14 per cent opposed to the proposal.

The poll – commissioned by the John Muir Trust – found a resounding majority in favour of the tax across all eight Scottish Parliamentary regions, and all age groups. An overwhelming majority of voters from all parties apart from the Conservatives expressed support for the policy, while even among the latter group, support for the tax outnumbers opposition.

There is clearly a great public appetite for using fiscal measures to compel big landowners to face up to their responsibilities and manage their land in the wider public interest. 

The John Muir Trust has brought forward a proposal for a Carbon Emissions Land Tax on all public, private and NGO landholdings over one thousand hectares, with exemption for community landowners. The proposal is backed by a diverse and growing coalition of over thirty community groups, trade unions, churches, charities, and businesses representing over one million members, including Oxfam, the STUC, the Scottish Community Alliance, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland, and the Quakers.

Mike Daniels, Head of Policy for the John Muir Trust, said: “Much of Scotland’s land, especially in the mountains and uplands, is failing to pull its weight in helping the nation deliver climate and biodiversity targets. The Scottish Government is now trying to address this huge gap and we applaud their efforts.

“This YouGov poll should give confidence to the politicians to act boldly. There is clearly a great public appetite for using fiscal measures to compel big landowners to face up to their responsibilities and manage their land in the wider public interest. This level of support gives the Scottish Government the mandate required to legislate for a new Carbon Emissions Land Tax.”

See the full poll results here.

The poll also found overwhelming support for landowners to take responsibility for improving nature, minimising climate damage and strengthening communities. Almost 80 per cent of voters say that “landowners who produce polluting greenhouse gases should have to pay for any costs resulting from it”.

Under this proposal, the Scottish Government would give councils the power to introduce the tax locally at their own discretion with all revenues retained by councils for spending on projects that would contribute to climate and biodiversity. These could include widening concessionary public transport, cycling infrastructure, new railway stations, improved council house energy efficiency and community nature restoration projects.

The poll comes as the Scottish Parliament’s summer recess ends and MSPs are due to begin working on the Land Reform bill. The John Muir Trust argues that widespread popular support for a Carbon Emissions Land Tax shows Scotland is ready for transformative land use change.

The John Muir Trust has now launched a public petition in support of the tax. You can add your signature here.  


The John Muir first presented the idea of Carbon Emissions Land Tax Scotland’s to Climate Assembly in early 2021.  After hearing and reading the arguments, the body – consisting of 100 adults selected as a representative sample of the country’s wider population – supported the proposal with 81 per cent in favour.

Since then, the idea has gained traction from politicians across three of Scotland’s five main political parties ­ – the SNP, Scottish Labour and the Scottish Green Party – and among wider civil society.

The details of how the tax would work in practice are open to discussion, but could be based on the following principles: 

  • Behavioural change. Taxation is a tried and tested means of preventing damaging activity. Examples include taxes on tobacco, alcoholic drinks, petrol, sugar, plastic bags, and waste disposal.
  • The tax would apply only to landholdings over a thousand hectares with an exemption for community owned land. We anticipate that in addition to private estates, large landholdings held by UK and Scottish Government agencies, such as the Ministry of Defence, Forestry and Land Scotland and National Nature Reserves would also be liable, as would properties owned by NGOs (including the John Muir Trust).
  • A banding system. Based on the same idea as the energy efficiency rating for buildings, we would suggest that, following an initial assessment, all large landholdings would be placed in five bands ranging from net zero emissions upwards, with a sliding scale of tax per hectare based on the gap between the potential of that land for storage and current levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Landholdings could move into lower tax over time as they reduce that gap.
  • Local authority discretion. While the introduction of the tax would require legislation by the Scottish Government, we would expect it to be left to the discretion of rural councils to decide whether to introduce it. The revenues would be retained locally and preferably ring-fenced for specific actions connected with reducing climate emissions, such as better public transport, improved energy efficiency in council housing and local nature restoration initiatives.

See all supporting organisations: here