He has taken a long and active interest in rural Scotland, including fulfilling a number of senior roles in the Public, Private and NGO sectors. From 1995 -1997, he was the Scottish Minister with responsibility for agriculture, forestry, environmental protection, countryside, sustainable development and culture.
Since then he has had a number of government appointments relating to his rural interests. He has served on the board of commercial companies and organisations including UA Group plc, Assured British Meat, Genesis Quality Assurance Ltd and ScottishQuality Salmon.
He is also a Vice President of RSPB and between 1998 and 2003 was Chairman of RSPB Scotland. He is Chairman of the Moorland Forum, President of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, Vice President of the International Tree Foundation and the Royal Smithfield Club, and was a recent President of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.