Land campaign is launched on Bute

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A CAMPAIGN to give the community a bigger say in the use and management of the land on Bute has been launched this week.

Ninety-one applications from the public for membership of the Mount Stuart Trust were due to be delivered to the organisation’s registered office in Edinburgh - although only seven of the applications are from people resident on Bute.

The Trust, the charitable company which owns 89 per cent of Bute’s land, currently has only seven members, although anyone can apply to join.

Quizzed on the number of applications so far from residents of the island, the co-ordinator of the campaign, author and land rights campaigner Andy Wightman, told The Buteman: “About 30 people were approached through two contacts and most declined to take part because they were uncertain of the consequences if they signed.

“The aim of this campaign is first and foremost to open up the membership of the Trust. If and when people on Bute wish to take control, then control will be handed to them.

“They may, however, not wish that to happen but that does not mean that the status quo should remain.

“I anticipate that there will be a tipping point at which many, many more people on Bute will have the confidence to apply. Much depends on the response from the Trust.

“Remember that at the moment nobody on Bute is a member. If these seven applications were successful then half the membership would be local.”

On his website (www.andywightman.com) Mr Wightman describes himself as “a writer, researcher, analyst, commentator and activist on issues of land, power, governance, democracy and money”.

He is the author of Who Owns Scotland, written in 1996 and published by Canongate, and of The Poor Had No Lawyers, published by Birlinn in 2010, which he describes as “an attempt to provide an historical analysis of the land question and to reinvigorate debate around land relations”.

David Cameron, the chairman of the pressure group Community Land Scotland, said: “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 is in favour of this 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.”