/ Applecross Estate - bid to establish community control rejected
A petition organised by Land Action Scotland to bring Applecross under community control has been rejected by the trustees of the Applecross Estate:
Their reasoning is here:
So the ownership of the 60,000 acre Applecross Estate remains in the hands of the six Trustees:
Be interesting to see what happens next. A lot of claim and counter-claim going on at the moment. Worth following Andy Wightman (@andywightman) and Land Action Scotland (@landactionscot) on Twitter if youíre interested.
Is the Applecross Estate being poorly/badly run?
I don't know.
Given that it is normal for Trustees to try and act dispassionately in line with the charitable objects (and the original trust deeds) then I don't really see what the issue is.
As I'm sure you know, community-buy-outs have been happening all over the Highlands & Islands in the last 10 years (Assynt, Eigg, North Harris, South Uist...) but equally in other places (e.g. North Uist) there doesn't seem to be the same demand for community ownership, as the existing landowners seem to be reasonably well liked.
The Applecross case seems to be a bit different since the move for community control seems to be coming from a relatively new organisation (Land Action Scotland) as opposed to the local crofters themselves. Unless I've misunderstood? Hence the Trustees' assertion that this is politically motivated.
Looking at the Trustees own website they claim to be doing a good job... they're hardly likely to say otherwise but that doesn't mean that it can't be true. I spend a lot of time in Shieldaig (the Torridon one), must ask around the next time I'm over there.
I think you've hit the nail on the head. The Applecross community need to ask for control and nobody else.
> I think you've hit the nail on the head. The Applecross community need to ask for control and nobody else.
Quite, I can't help get the feeling from browsing the links that Doug's put up that the pressure to change is coming from outside Applecross. From the petitioner's website:
"Time is ripe for revolution when the masses of people won't act for change but won't strongly oppose those who do."
Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, 1971.
Itís time to challenge landed power and mount a campaign of positive action for land reform. We will be launching a number of actions over the coming months and to kick off we plan to help the people of the Isle of Bute and Applecross to take control of the land. Please join us.
One can't help feel that this is a group of people who think they know what's best for the rest of us. Perhaps I'm wrong though.
Just been reading into this a bit further.
Land Action Scotland has been encouraging its members to apply for membership of the Applecross Trust (and a similar organisation which owns most of the island of Bute).
In the FAQs section of their website ( http://www.landaction.org.uk/?page_id=74 ) they encourage people to apply to join even if they have no connection to either area, because:
"...few people in either place are willing to get involved in this campaign at the outset because of fear of the consequences".
Their idea seems to be that:
"By applying to become a member, you are helping to democratise these organisations. If and when they agree to admit members, you agree to use your voting rights to enable [the community] to take control of the Company if and when it wishes to."
It seems clear from this page:
that many locals feel that they haven't been consulted at all. The same page includes a quote from Brian Wilson (supported by the Applecross Community Company and the Applecross Community Council) in the West Highland Press (05/10/12):
"It will be interesting to see how Applecross itself responds... .In addition to the few who have declared themselves in favour, I have no doubt that there will be supporters who deem it prudent to keep their heads below the parapet in a community where "the big house" is so dominant. Others will see no problem with the status quo. At some point, the relative strength of these forces will have to be measured."
Earlier this year the Scottish Government set up the Land Reform Review Group ( http://www.scotland.gov.uk/About/Review/land-reform/ReviewGroup ). It's due to produce a draft final report in Dec 2013. No doubt they're following the Applecross case fairly closely.
Yep, I read some of that in the FAQ's and that's what causes me concern. They seem to be objecting to ownership by absentee owners and yet they come away with crap like this in the FAQ's " But I donít live on the Isle of Bute or in Applecross.Thatís not an issue." and the presumption that the community are spineless. Other communities stood up and took the initiative themselves. This just seems to be some pseudo-nationalistic political agit-crap that I don't think has the best interests of the communities it claims to represent at it's heart. In fact, logically, how could it, as they don't represent the communities and by their own admission even being part of the communities isn't really necessary.
"being part of the communities isn't really necessary"
As far as the Applecross Trust is concerned they don't want any member's of the Applecross community to join them due to the "emotional attachment" they might have.
And neither do they want the local MP:
Whatever you think of Land Action Scotland, I don't see anything "pseudo-nationalistic" about their aims.
Local? Does Kennedy live on the Peninsula? Something about this situation stinks.
He's the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber and is at least as local as some of the present Trust Members.
I am not saying this is the case, but a hypothetical example could reasonably be:
- estate given over to a trust deed which specifies it should be run for the benefit of pygmy orangutans
- independent trustees appointed to fulfil deed of trust
- trustees run estate as necessary to fulfil requirements (including as necessary renting out property)
- tennants want to have greater say in trust running (not on the face of it unreasonable at all), but want estate run for benefit of community rather than pygmy orangutans
- end result trust requirements in conflict with community
The terms of reference for the Trust are given here:
"The Applecross Trust, a conservation charity, has responsibility for some 70,000 acres of Wester Ross covering much of the Applecross Peninsula and known as the Applecross Estate.
The Trust is committed to ensuring that the special character of the peninsula is preserved in a responsible and progressive manner whilst acknowledging its wilderness heritage and its importance as an area of outstanding natural beauty. The Trust's conservation programme includes plans to preserve and build on traditional existing features in a sensitive vein but equally, is keen to identify new opportunities which could be developed innovatively and in partnership with the community..."
No mention anywhwere of the MoD base at Sand, you'll notice... :-)
> No mention anywhwere of the MoD base at Sand, you'll notice... :-)
Is that part of the Estate?
I'm all in favour of community ownership in cases where it's what the community wants and when the landlord isn't doing right by the community. I don't know if this is the case in Applecross, and I doubt we'll get an accurate picture from either the trustees of the Estate or from Land Action Scotland. I'd be interested to know why LAS have chosen these two estates (Applecross and Bute) to try to take action on.
I'm guessing not, but it's literally right next to one of the places pictured on their website!
I was wondering exactly the same thing, Tony.
I attended an event last week which had someone from Applecross speaking at it. I wont identify them or say who they worked for as it would easy to identify them.
They weren't happy with the estate and in particular the speed of decision making or remoteness of the trustees.
Possibly the reason might be that this isn't a community company say in the way Eigg, Gigha or Assynt is. It's landowners.
Did the person from Applecross express any support for either the LAS action or for community ownership?
Not in their presentation (how could they and this wasn't the subject matter) but expressed some non-committal concerns on a one to one basis.
I have actually had some dealings with the trust also, through their office in Inverness.
> Not in their presentation (how could they and this wasn't the subject matter) but expressed some non-committal concerns on a one to one basis.
Agreed. I am sure the person would have mentioned it had there been more time and the subject matter allowed.
Land reform will be painful though. It's bigger than just an estate here or there. It's about completely changing a pattern of ownership and community established for hundreds of years.
None at all to be honest although I haven't been to the area for a fair few months now. What are they?
It's not the Rausings is it? They are trying to buy up lots of land right now. They have Corrour and Coignafearn.
I would just bring in a law making it much more difficult to buy estates if you don't live for at least 9 months in the country.
> The rumours (obtained at a bar, if this stuff bothers you, you might want to investigate further) are it is to plant trees to offset CO2 emissions from factories elsewhere.
You may have answered your own question. In what other country would it be possible to buy a similar parcel of land with this in mind?
> You may have answered your own question. In what other country would it be possible to buy a similar parcel of land with this in mind?
Don't know. Presumably you need somewhere where trees will grow and currently don't, which are probably in short supply. I don't know what I think to be honest - there are thousands of acres of fairly un-used bog in Scotland that would be forest but for the deer. If they are planted with suitable species and the deer controlled, I would not necessarily mind. We all use products that result in CO2 emission after all. On the other hand, if it results in gamekeepers and other losing jobs, that would perhaps be a pity.
Some info here I think
Yes, of course the terrain needs to be right but I suspect that investors are attracted to Scotland because it has such an extremely concentrated pattern of land management (i.e. lots of land owned by relatively few people), as a result of which the opportunities to buy large parcels of land are there. No doubt this is preferable (in their eyes) to having to buy lots of small estates in another country.
Good piece and less radical than the WHFP would have been in years gone by. Excellent points though but very political (what isn't in the WHFP?) I wonder who wrote it? Roger Hutchison?
Anyway, it raises important questions. I can't actually think of any advantages to the current pattern of landownership in Scotland. Unless of course you are very rich and want to own massive areas of land.
Maybe Paul Wood?
The article makes reference to the Applecross Trust being a "tax-efficient device" for the Trustees (essentially the Wills family). I wonder what they mean by that exactly?
I think it means they are less liable for certain taxes. Presumably the Corrour Trust is the same.
Do you know why these places have their status of registered charities, as opposed to being normal 'estates'?
I don't but I presume it is again for tax reasons in a similar way a private school might do this.
You would put something in a trust to protect it from future misuse or change of intent (see my pygmy orangutan example). landowners have also sometimes used trusts to prevent feckless offspring frittering away an estate, but that in itself is unlikely to meet charitable requirements.
> Do you know why these places have their status of registered charities, as opposed to being normal 'estates'?
Because they have aims deemed to be charitable. You can check what they are:
Maybe they are trying to avoid inheritance tax so they can keep control of the estate in the family indefinitely.
I can fully understand why people don't like large private estates but at least be honest about the motivation for campaigning (which to be fair LAS do seem to be), but as already mentioned it raises all sorts of problems across Scotland.
Thanks. But that link raises as many questions as it answers. Their stated aims and objectives:
"To preserve the special character of the Applecross peninsula in a responsible and progressive manner whilst acknowledging its wilderness heritage and its importance as an area of outstanding natural beauty."
To preserve its "special character"? I suppose it's unique - just like everywhere else.
"Wilderness heritage"? It's hardly wilderness; it's managed by the Trust to look exactly as it does. Unless they simply mean that with a population of c. 200 in >60,000 acres, it's virtually empty?
"Outstanding natural beauty"? Well, yes, it's in Wester Ross. Lots of other estates share the same feature.
All seems a bit glib to me.
Guidance on what can and can't be considered charitable is here:
It seems that it comes down to there being a perceived public benefit. There doesn't seem to be anything particularly unique about Applecross, and access laws are the same there as they are just about anywhere else in Scotland, so I'm none the wiser as to why it's a charity while so many other estates aren't.
Perhaps they are simply one of the few who have sought it?
Possibly. Although, it seems to me the peninsula is pretty well looked after in line with those, I agree vague, aims. It certainly attracts many visitors for the landscape and wildlife. I don't think you could say the same about many moorland estates.
If those are their stated aims as a charity, which they must be failing to acheive hence the challenge, what would the community owners have as their aims? The one thing I'm failing spectacularly to understand is if the challenge is because of bad management or purely the fact that none of the board live on the peninsula.
The fact that the estate is not unique and only a small population seems to be pretty irrelevant.
Whether an estate could be run as a charity will depend on a lot of factors (as mentioned in the charity test on page 2 of the OSCR doc) ie public benefit, aims, profit for non-charitable purposes etc etc. At least being a charity there is far more scope to challenge its activities if the Trust isn't living up to its charitable aims.
The challenge seems to be much more about a general land ownership challenge, unfortunately my gut feeling is that a charitable trust established for conservation is actually a poor example to go after (compared to say a straight forward private owner).
Here's one that's a charitable community trust :- http://www.galsontrust.com/#
Seems top have similar aims and acreage as the Applecross one does at the moment...
Can be, but isn't necessarily. For example, in the interests of conservation, Rum was a closed island for many years. Public benefit?
I wasn't knocking the estate for not being unique, but for not being self-evidently "special" in the way that it claims to be in its stated aims.
> Can be, but isn't necessarily. For example, in the interests of conservation, Rum was a closed island for many years. Public benefit?
Again, it could be. Back to my pygmy orangutan example - if pygmy orangutans are endangered and I decide to give over my estate to their conservation then that is likely to be a public benefit. What I couldn't do is give over my estate to a trust, claim it was for conservation and only let certain friends/relatives visit it.
I disagree, but special is by its nature entirely subjective.
No, because apart from anything else you'd be breaking the law if you did, at least in Scotland.
It seems odd that an estate is able to claim advantage (tax or otherwise) on the basis that it recognises the right of access when this right is already enshrined in law.
> Here's one that's a charitable community trust :- http://www.galsontrust.com/#
> Seems top have similar aims and acreage as the Applecross one does at the moment...
Yes your are right but these organisations are very different. It's irrelevant if it's a charity or otherwise. It's what is does.
Housing is a huge issue in Applecross, the petrol station was run down, population was falling etc. The management of the estate and land has affect on all of these than more.
One of the main points to consider is that people are unlikely to invest in something if it could be taken away at a moments notice. That applies to financial investment and life investment. If you live in a draughty cottage and the estate does the minimum maintenance you might not stay and have children. That then puts the school under pressure and all it's associated services.
Like I say, leaving aside the benfits to rich people who want to avoid tax or simply "own" land, I can't see any advantages in the current landownership pattern in Scotland.
> It seems odd that an estate is able to claim advantage (tax or otherwise) on the basis that it recognises the right of access when this right is already enshrined in law.
Not necessarily so with respect to access.
There is sometimes no right of access and the legislation is sometimes particularly vague or too easily circumvented. I would think that there is no legal right of access to Applecross House. I'm sure it is open as a way to make money, but there is not obligation to do so
I know from speaking to a good friend who lives on the coast road in Applecross that broadband connectivity is an issue too, though whether that is something that the estate can do anything about, I don't know.
According to this, the estate supported and partly paid for a new petrol station.
Peter, I'm talking about access to the estate in general, not the grounds of Applecross House.
Yes but that is an internet link which gives you the most basic general information. I spoke to the person involved in the petrol station last week and I can assure you the petrol station is neither new or particularly up to date. It's run by volunteers and is automated.
Some body has to own the estate/land. Regardless of who owns it your arguments do not change, if someone is renting a property, yes it is up to the landlord to maintain it. If someone has bought a property I'd just like to see anyone take it from them. The management of the estate is definitely a concern, but this does not seem to be an issue, just who owns it. Plus I've yet to see a community council/village meeting end in unison.
As for housing being a huge issue, I would think that holiday homes and other properties bought as investments are a bigger concern - where locals just cannot afford to buy a home.
I gave it more as an example of something where they may provide access but have no obligation to do so.
Yes you are correct. I want the community to own it and all the evidence says that community ownership results in a better standard or property. Gigha is an example.
The opposite is true also - there are many people living in caravans acorss the highlands as they can't get land to build on, can't afford it and who live in properties which the estate doesn't maintain. This is obvious if you drive round a bit.
I don't quite get why you (appear) to be resisting this. It seems like fairly common sense to many.
Presumably (also) charitable status is reviewed from time to time?
OSCR would decide but they rarely rock the boat.
I suppose I'd be more concerned with how something is managed than who owns it. I'm not pro or anti the trust, but the argument in this case seems illogical, until someone can show the trust to be failing in some respect. Also with the legislation we have today we have moved away from the powers the estates used to have in the past and they are not what they onc were. Tenants are much more protected. I just do not follow the logic of community ownership = good Remote Trustees = bad, and vice versa.
Me too. Unfortunately we have accumulated many decades, maybe hundreds of years, that have left many communities unable to generate wealth which then supports services. They become dependent but can't break the cycle as the ownership and door to deal with some of the issues such as housing, jobs, schools is held shut by people who often just buy land for tax reasons or for the fun of shooting animals.
Re not following the logic, just look at the evidence from around Scotland. Assynt, Gigha, North Harris, Scalpay last week, Eigg, Laggan etc.
Compare that with say Inchnadamph Estate or Arverikie.
Of course this about who and what. There is another discussion, bigger, to be hand about how people can gain ownership of massive areas of land and through that control of many jobs and properties and indirectly the community.
There is also the biodiversity issue. Even a quick gland tells you that private estates are terrible at this.
But that isn't what the charitable aim is. You are selectively quoting part of it.
It isn't at all odd when you think that access does not equal conservation.
Please can we try and stick to the point, which is surely about land ownership (rather than the rights/wrongs of charity law).
> Housing is a huge issue in Applecross, the petrol station was run down, population was falling etc. The management of the estate and land has affect on all of these than more.
> One of the main points to consider is that people are unlikely to invest in something if it could be taken away at a moments notice. That applies to financial investment and life investment. If you live in a draughty cottage and the estate does the minimum maintenance you might not stay and have children. That then puts the school under pressure and all it's associated services.
> Like I say, leaving aside the benfits to rich people who want to avoid tax or simply "own" land, I can't see any advantages in the current landownership pattern in Scotland.
That is all reasonable (and to me the real issue). Short of land appropriations, the options appear to be:
- work with the Trust for common good
- hope that eventually there is enough trust between the Trust and the population to either enable the community to have better/some representation on the Board
- complain to OSCR for failure to comply with charitable aims
The big hitch that is possible is what happens if the charitable aims would be furthered by running down the population and community. In the case of wildlife conservation that isn't so outlandish an idea.
This thread is going the way of many on UKC i.e. a pointless discussion of minute points. People wont agree. Some, like me have little time for old established patterns and amn't that bothered about maintaining a system. Others feel nervous about a further weakening of a pillar of the establishment (land ownership) as it means that what they hold dear is now under threat. They are quite happy to argue administrative points whilst avoiding the general thrust that people like being in control of where they live.
Without an ownership system how do you guarantee the rights the inhabitants?
With an ownership system what prevents richer people creating the problem all over again?
I didn't say that. Please have a look at the various community ownership examples out there. That is what I am talking about. The Assynt Estate has a legal clause preventing sale to a private landowner.
I'm sorry I've come so late to this thread - it's a subject I feel strongly about (and work in a related field).
A few folk have raised questions about how the locals on Applecross feel about this situation. A fascinating blog, run by a local is at http://applecrosslifeblog.wordpress.com (apologies if anyone has posted this link already) - it's well worth reading, and sheds some light on things.
Saor Alba, I definitely agree with your 1459 post. Wish there was a way to get round that unease folk feel when a system - even if it's structurally failing - is challenged. For me, reading Wightman's books (amongst others...) did it.
MJH, the rights of tenants on community-controlled estates are legally the same as they are on privately-owned estates. The advantage is that the management is closer, and more accountable, and has an interest in investing and creating stable conditions to encourage others to invest - conditions which frequently don't happen on estates owner by absentee landlords.
In fact, for anyone who can't quite see the reasons for land reform, I couldn't recommend enough reading Andy Wightman's book, The Poor Had No Lawyers: http://www.birlinn.co.uk/book/details/Poor-Had-No-Lawyers--The-9781841589602/
And demonstrating the wide range of positive benefits which flow to communities which have taken control of their land - as SA says, Gigha, Eigg, Knoydart etc, there's another excellent book by Jim Hunter http://www.theislandsbooktrust.com/store/books/from-the-low-tide-of-the-sea-to-the-highest-mountain-...
Thanks for the link to the blog. It will lighten up the dark nights!
And you're selectively quoting me! I only raised the issue of access in response to your post of 13:31; you pointed out that it would be wrong for a charitable estate to restrict access, and I pointed out that it would be illegal for any estate to do so.
Again. At no point did I state that the two were equivalent; that would be a very odd thing to claim.
Is there some forum rule that I've missed about dealing with two points on the same thread?
I raised the issue of the charitable status of the Applecross Estate, and I think that's a reasonable question to ask - I'm genuinely curious as to why it has this status when so many other estates don't. If you don't want to get involved in this part of the discussion, no-one is forcing you to.
One option that could move things in that direction would be a compulsory right to community buy-out whenever the estate changes hands.
As I said above, it'll be interesting to see the conclusions of the Land Reform Review Group in this regard.
> And you're selectively quoting me! I only raised the issue of access in response to your post of 13:31; you pointed out that it would be wrong for a charitable estate to restrict access, and I pointed out that it would be illegal for any estate to do so.
Apologies - wrong end of the stick. My point about a charity restricting access is not about land related access but access to any charitable facility or service ie a question of whether something can pass a public benefit test.
> I raised the issue of the charitable status of the Applecross Estate, and I think that's a reasonable question to ask - I'm genuinely curious as to why it has this status when so many other estates don't. If you don't want to get involved in this part of the discussion, no-one is forcing you to.
Of course there isn't, but like Saor Alba, I don't think it necessarily helps the debate on what appears to the main point ie land ownership. I thought the point on charitable status had been answered - it isn't that different to say the National Trust or other well known charitable trust owning land.
OK, I see where you're coming from re. the access point.
Well one difference is that the membership of the National Trust, John Muir Trust, etc. is open to anyone whereas the Applecross Trust membership clearly isn't.
E.g. Pairc Estate on Lewis and their ongoing saga
Thanks for the recommendation re. Jim Hunter's book - will need to look that one up. I read Andy Wightman's The Poor Have No Lawyers earlier this year and like you would strongly recommend it to anyone with an interest in this area.
David Ross, The Herald's Highland Correspondent, has blogged on the subject:
It has now - via Andy Wightman on Facebook. According to Andy, The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator was founded in 2005 and since then it has been reviewing Scottish charities to check that they meet the new 2005 Charity and Trustees Investment (Scotland) Act. They are doing so in order of perceived risk, and the Applecross Trust has still to be reviewed.
Andy has also pointed out that with respect to the Applecross Trust, the Land Action Scotland campaign was trying to open up membership precisely so that local people could have the opportunity to join.
Yes exactly. That might set a precedent or it might go nowhere. Either way there is going to be more community ownership in the future.
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