BANKER Benny Higgins has been unveiled as the new executive chairman of estates, property and energy group Buccleuch.

Mr Higgins, who was chief executive of Tesco Bank and held senior roles at Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS, will succeed the Duke of Buccleuch as chairman.

The Duke is stepping down at the start of March, shortly after his 65th birthday. His elder son, the Earl of Dalkeith, will become deputy chairman. The Earl was educated at Eton College and at the University of Edinburgh, where he graduated with a degree in geography. He studied for a further degree in commercial property chartered surveying and is working for Native Land, a London property company with which Buccleuch is involved closely.

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Mr Higgins has been a non-executive director of Buccleuch for six years.

Buccleuch said its chief executive, John Glen, would move from his current role to focus on a “strategic review of large-scale energy projects which are at a critical phase in their development”.

The Duke said the group had endured some difficult years after the 2008 financial crash but was now trading profitably and was “committed to driving forward its business objectives”.

He added: “The implementation of a strategy to reduce our overall rural footprint and realise property sales, while continuing to invest in a range of projects… has proved successful.”

Buccleuch’s interests include commercial property investment and development, hospitality and tourism, energy, rural land management and building design, and a wholesale tree nursery.

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Among its energy projects, it operates a 200-kilowatt biomass boiler to provide heat for Drumlanrig Castle.

Buccleuch declared it had worked to ensure the former Glenmuckloch opencast coal mine “has a future beyond coal”.

It noted that a community-owned initiative with two turbines on the site in Dumfries and Galloway was already operational, with planning consent received to build eight, 3.2-megawatt turbines adjacent to the opencast site.

A pumped-storage scheme is being developed at the site. Buccleuch noted this scheme had received full planning consent from the Scottish Government and added that, once operational, it could generate up to 400MW of electricity at times of peak demand.

Buccleuch is also pursuing wind farm proposals at Hopsrig on the Borders Estate and in the North Lowther Hills on the Queensberry Estate, with both schemes “currently subject to planning procedure”.

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Buccleuch said the Duke would continue to be involved in heritage elements of the family holdings, including historic houses and an art collection. He will also continue to chair the Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust.

The Duke said: “The last decade had seen a transformation of the group, with promising diversification into important new areas and the modernisation of our management structures and practices. I am pleased to announce the end of my chairmanship at a time when the business is in a very healthy position. I express warm appreciation to John Glen for his huge part in achieving that and pay to tribute to the energy and commitment of everyone within the group who has made it possible.”

Mr Higgins said that he was excited by the opportunities offered by the position.