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March 21, 2023

‘Anarchist’ Minister calls off sale 

Revealing outburst from a prospective purchaser of Kinloch Castle on Rum, accusing Green Party MSP Lorna Slater of being an ‘anarchist minister’. The building has long been a headache (financially and strategically) for its current owners, NatureScot, who were keen to offload. But the multimillionaire’s plans never aligned with the interests of Rum’s small community nor apparently, were they ever shared directly with them. And so Ms Slater called the whole deal off. And what’s to become of Kinloch Castle? An idea to allow the castle to decay as a curated ruin is being considered.


Xander Elliards, Sunday National

A MULTIMILLIONAIRE Brexiteer has dropped his bid to buy a small Hebridean island’s iconic castle.

Jeremy Hosking – a key donor to Laurence Fox’s controversial Reclaim Party who is reportedly worth some £375 million – had been in talks to purchase Kinloch Castle on Rum from a Scottish Government agency.

But locals had warned the sale represented an “existential threat” to the small island community of around 40 people, and called for another solution to be found for the empty site.

The castle is owned by NatureScot, formerly called Scottish Natural Heritage, which has said it is a drain on its funding. The agency has said there is an option to let it “decline and ruin”, warning this will “still come at a cost to the public purse of around £1m”.

It had been in talks with Hosking about selling the castle, which he hoped to turn into a hotel business.

However, the sale was put on hold in November by Scottish Greens minister Lorna Slater after lobbying from locals.

Slater said the Government was keen to find a solution that eased the funding burden on NatureScot and also worked for the Rum community.

On Saturday, Hosking (below) said that he no longer wanted to be involved in the project, telling the Daily Mail that it was Slater’s fault.

He said: “This is not about money — I don’t want to be participating in this process because it is so horrible.

“I understand it is the minister that decides and it’s her prerogative, but her actions have consequences. I’m not prepared to be pushed around any more. They have to find another buyer.

“I have tried to speak to Miss Slater but got no reply. Enough is enough.

“Of course I am handing the anarchy head [a reference to Slater’s governmental department] this great victory because we are now back to where we were five years ago, and the castle is five years older. And it’s the Greens who have completely crushed a conservation project. It’s unbelievable.”

But the Isle of Rum Community Trust (IRCT) thanked Slater for her “invaluable” support through the process – and questioned why they had learned of Hosking’s withdrawal through the newspapers and not been told “in a more conventional manner”.

The trust said it was “disappointing” that the multimillionaire had dropped his bid, but went on: “However, it is perhaps never a good sign of things to come if a prospective major player in the life of our island chooses to communicate repeatedly with this community, on subjects of such importance, by these means [through the newspapers], rather than in a more conventional manner.

“Indeed, dialogue with Mr Hosking and his representatives has rarely felt full, open and constructive and we feel vindicated in our concerns that this may have had negative implications for any future working relationships had the sale gone ahead.”

It went on: “The Isle of Rum Community Trust have worked hard to ensure that any sale must represent a good deal for the community who live on Rum. Over the last eight months, we have made a number of, we feel, reasonable requests to the proposed buyer (and the seller) relating to the possible positive and negative impacts on Rum of these proposals. None of these have been substantially answered. This has been unfortunate.”

The trust said it would continue to look for a “sustainable future for the castle site which will deliver benefits to everyone on Rum and to the agendas of community empowerment and engagement, land reform, environment and net zero, as well as that of heritage.”

Kinloch Castle has a chequered history and is seen as a symbol of the excessive wealth and greed of the days of empire.

It was constructed by George Bullough, the playboy son of textile magnate John Bullough, from 1897-1900. His father had bought the island as a hunting estate in 1888.

Rum had been inhabited since ancient times but saw its population of some 400 cleared out to make room for sheep in the early 1800s. After the sheep farm went bust, it was sold to the Conservative politician James Gascoyne-Cecil in 1845. It was Gascoyne-Cecil who sold it to Bullough.

Locals has raised concerns that a sale to Hosking could see similar aristocratic-style ownership of the island, saying that they “cannot compete with the power that many millions of pounds bring with it”.

The English businessman was ranked 351 on the Sunday Times Rich List in 2019. He has donated to the Tories, to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, and millions to Laurence Fox’s Reclaim Party.