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October 10, 2012

Land Action campaign moves forward

Whatever conclusions the Land Reform Review process may come to, it can be assumed that it’ll be some years before any changes come into effect.  Meanwhile the campaign, Land Action Scotland continues apace.  This campaign aims to challenge absentee landowners, and to convince them that membership of the charities that they  have created as legal vehicles to own these estates should be opened up to local residents.  Initial reactions and responses to the campaign have been recorded on its website.



A campaign was launched this week to challenge the absentee owners of the Island of Bute and the Applecross peninsula in Wester Ross to open up membership of the companies that own the estates to local residents and their supporters. 

Mount Stuart Trust owns 28,000 acres on Bute and is wholly controlled by five members of the Marquess of Bute’s family plus an accountant and lawyer. None of them live on Bute.

The Applecross Trust, which owns 61,000 acres of the Applecross peninsula in Wester Ross is wholly controlled by seven people and chaired by Richard Wills, of Andover, Hampshire. None of the members lives in Applecross.

Over ninety applications for membership rights were delivered on Wednesday 26 September to the Registered Offices of the companies in Edinburgh requesting membership rights . If successful, these members will work with local residents to hand over the companies to community control. Applicants in this initial wave include supporters from across Scotland as well as local people from Bute and Applecross.

The campaign is being run by Land Action Scotland – a new network of land rights activists across Scotland. A new website, gives further information  and the wider public will be invited to submit online applications for membership.

Andy Wightman, author, land rights campaigner, and the co-ordinator of the new Land Action Scotland campaign said:

“The aim is to democratise these private organisations which are meant to operate on a charitable basis. They exert enormous influence over the local communities of Bute and Applecross and yet they remain in the exclusive control of a handful of people who to date have shown no interest in extending participation to local residents.

“The time has passed for aristocrats and wealthy families to hide their continued control over vast tracts of Scotland behind front companies and charities, fig-leaves that allow them to keep control. The people of Bute and Applecross have the right to be members of these companies and play a full and democratic part in the future of the estate.

“We have therefore this week launched a major campaign to challenge the vested interests who control the company and to open up membership. The ball is now firmly with the Mount Stuart Trust and the Applecross Trust. Are they nepotistic cliques or are they prepared to share power with local people?”

Responding to the initiative, David Cameron of Community Land Scotland said,

“This is a very interesting development. 

“It is one of Community Land Scotland’s fundamental principles that community landownership must come from the communities themselves. Therefore if the community of Bute and the community of Applecross are in favour of this initiative as a means to ultimately secure community control for themselves, then we will support them.

“It is one of the tragedies of private landownership that some communities can be reluctant even to register an interest in community landownership, for fear that it is seen as a hostile move. 

“Land Action Scotland has made clear that their goal here is to put pressure on the estates to open up membership, at which point local community members could join as a means to ultimately securing community control”.