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May 8, 2013

Keeping it in the family

89% of the Isle of Bute is owned by a charitable trust – The Mount Stuart Trust.  Anyone can apply to become a member but only family members of the 7th Marquis of Bute ever have. Last year Land Action Scotland launched a campaign to widen membership of the Trust so that people who live on the island might have more of a stake in how their land is owned and managed. Many residents, including local MSP Mike Russell, duly applied for membership. Five months on, it’s no surprise that all applications have been declined. 


Blog from Land Action Scotland

Since it became clear in mid-November 2012 that neither the Applecross Trust nor the Mount Stuart Trust were interested in admitting a wider membership to the respective companies, we took the decision to suspend any further campaigning on the topic. There was, however, one outstanding issue. The Mount  Stuart Trust had never responded to the applications for membership. It was clear that, following changes that the Trust had made to its constitution, that they would be accepting none of the applications but yet we waited.

On 29 April 2013, the Mount Stuart Trust wrote to all applicants (including many on Bute and the local MSP Michael Russell) to inform them that their applications had been refused. The Trust issued a media release with the news and details of three new members who are to be appointed as Directors of the company.

In response, Andy Wightman, co-ordinator of the Land Action Scotland campaign issued the following statement.

“I am disappointed that Mount Stuart Trust has turned down all the applications for membership that were made last October. Far from making the Trust more democratic, the Board has decided to restrict membership to a maximum of twelve and permit the Marquess of Bute (a tax-exile who does not even live in the UK) to appoint four of the Directors.

A charity that owns land on this scale purportedly for the public interest should be open to the public to join as members. The issue is now in front of the Land Reform Review Group since legislative change is now the only way to force these exclusive charities to properly represent and serve the interests of the residents of Bute and the wider public.”

These comments have been reported in the Buteman here.