The Mount Stuart Trust has, for the first time, published a detailed description of the work it carries out on Bute and beyond, following a call for greater community involvement in the running of the organisation.
The Trust announced on Thursday that it was to make five new appointments to its board of directors, “including a number from the island’s community”, after land reform campaigner Andy Wightman launched a campaign to encourage members of the public to apply for membership of the Trust, a company limited by guarantee which is run for charitable purposes.
The names and addresses of more than 90 people - the vast majority not resident on Bute - were delivered to the Trust’s registered office in Edinburgh to mark the launch of the campaign last month.
The applications for membership, and the new board appointments, will be considered by the Trust’s seven current directors - chairman Colin Henderson, a partner in Edinburgh law firm Anderson Strathern LLP, whose Edinburgh office is also the registered office of the Trust; Anthony Crichton-Stuart, brother of the current Marquess, Johnny Bute; Sophie Crichton-Stuart, the Marquess’s sister; Jack Dumfries, son and heir of the Marquess; Cathleen Crichton-Stuart, the Marquess’s second daughter; Samantha Bain, daughter of Sophie Crichton-Stuart and the Marquess’s niece; and accountant Stephen Jenkins.
The press release accompanying the announcement of the five new directorial appointments also included the following background notes on the work of the Trust - some aspects of which will be common knowledge to many readers on Bute and beyond, though others may be less widely known.
“The Mount Stuart Trust was created by the sixth Marquess of Bute in 1989 with the purpose of entrusting the historic Mount Stuart, together with the lands and resources comprising the Bute Estate, to a company limited by guarantee to be run for charitable purposes.
“Mount Stuart, Britain’s most spectacular Victorian Gothic mansion house, is the architectural fantasy of the 3rd Marquess of Bute and his architect, Sir Robert Rowand Anderson.
“The stunning interiors of Mount Stuart reflect the creator’s passion for art, heraldry, astrology, mythology and religion. Mount Stuart sits in a landscape of three hundred acres of gardens and woodlands, recognised as amongst the finest in Europe, originally created in the 1700s and preserved in the present day for future generations by the Trust.
“The 6th Marquess’s legacy was built on by his son, John Bute, the 7th Marquess, who during his chairmanship of the Trust, personally placed the Trust on a sound financial footing and oversaw many refurbishments within the house, including significant restoration works and the creation of a state-of-the-art secure library housing much of the historic archive collection.
“His vision resulted in 2001 in the completion of the award-winning contemporary visitor centre, the largest building project to have been undertaken at Mount Stuart since work began on the chapel in 1896.”
The Mount Stuart Trust/Bute family members
“The Trust is predominantly self-funding, at virtually no cost to the public purse. Bute family members make significant contributions to the overall achievements of the Trust.”
“The purpose of the charity is to promote interest in the appreciation of art, music, literature, nature, natural history and architecture primarily, but not exclusively, in the west of Scotland so that the public may increase their understanding of these topics.
“Mount Stuart regularly receives in excess of 30,000 visitors per annum and since it has been open to the public over 500,000 visitors have been recorded. Each visitor to Mount Stuart also contributes considerably to the tourism economy of the Isle of Bute.”
1. Supporting the local community
Employer on Bute
“The Trust is a major employer on Bute and the number of people employed has risen from 45 in 2006 to 57 full time employees in 2012.
“Additionally, during the spring to autumn season when Mount Stuart is open to the public, a further 40+ temporary/seasonal staff are employed. The annual payroll is in excess of £1.3 million.
Visual Arts Programme
“The visual arts programme, under the direction of and curated by Sophie Crichton-Stuart, aims to promote and facilitate interest in the contemporary visual arts and bring exhibitions of an international standard to Bute and Argyll.
“It works with universities, colleges and schools and young people from the local community.”
“The Trust makes a significant contribution to the Bute Ranger service which provides outreach to the community and visitors to Bute on a wide range of access, environmental and natural history issues.”
Discover Bute Landscape Partnership Scheme
“The Trust has, over the past four years, donated to the Discover Bute Landscape Partnership Scheme (DBLPS) which is committed to preserving and maintaining the archaeological landscape on Bute, a concept fully supported by the Trust and very specifically supported by the Ranger service.”
Hosting of local events and organisations
“Mount Stuart plays host to many local organisations/events, especially for the younger generation – eg the Annual Den Building week-long programme is a popular feature on the calendar.
“The Trust also liaises with the Rothesay Joint Campus for various activities, including the Forest School Project and their own annual St Andrew’s dinner, which the youngsters prepare in the Mount Stuart house kitchen.
Assisting local concerns develop their potential
“The Trust has a history of helping local business and community concerns realise their ambitions. There are numerous examples where the Trust has released land where there are compelling circumstances.
“In 2008, the Trust granted the use of land for the Calum’s Cabin project - the provision of holiday accommodation for families with children suffering from cancer.
“The Trust is currently working with Bute Conservation Trust (BCT) in the hope of establishing a heritage centre on the west coast of the island with land and buildings provided by the Trust.”
“Members of Mount Stuart’s management team are involved with groups and organisations across the island, including Visit Bute, Bute Conservation Trust/DBLPS.”
2. Management of Bute Estate - Agricultural and residential property on Bute
Bute Estate agricultural property
“The Trust has continued its policy of re-letting land to support the agricultural industry on Bute and to encourage commercially successful farmers.
“Since 2009 the Trust has granted 14 new farm leases and seven existing tenants have gained additional land during that time. Of the 14 new agreements, three were 15 year limited duration tenancies (LDTs) – two of which were granted to young farmers in their 20s.
“Bute Estate managers hold individual annual farm tenant strategy meetings in addition to regular meetings and ongoing communication with individual tenants, as well as interface with local NFUS representatives for Bute.”
Bute Estate residential property
“The Trust owns and manages residential property on the Isle of Bute. The Trust budgets to spend £300,000 per annum on general maintenance and repairs to its residential properties, and a high proportion of this is spent on local contractors and materials.
Property refurbishment programme
“The Trust is currently undertaking a major programme of refurbishing properties which come back in-hand. In 2010, the Trust set aside a special fund to renovate such properties and as a result ten properties have undergone extensive refurbishment and improvement at a cost in excess of £600,000. This programme is ongoing.”
“Over the last decade, The Trust has developed a range of self catering holiday accommodation so that visitors to Bute can explore and appreciate the unique tranquillity of the island in a rural setting, and commercial events at Mount Stuart can have the necessary accommodation.
“The Trust has spent c£500,000 in renovating traditional long barns in a prominent location on the west of the island into high quality accommodation.
“The income from holiday accommodation supports the Trust’s charitable aims and assists its aims of promoting Mount Stuart as a visitor destination.”
Developing existing property on Bute – Masterplan
“The Trust, in cooperation with the local planning department, has identified a number of opportunities on Bute where it can develop land and buildings to create new residential properties to house local people and provide holiday accommodation to attract more visitors to Mount Stuart and Bute.
“In 2011, using sourced finance partners, Phase one of this masterplan was completed, with an investment of £1.7 million. The Trust converted Victorian stables and kennels into four new dwelling units.
“In 2013 the Trust intends to implement phase two of its masterplan, to further develop such opportunities on Bute, using outside funding partners and investments to redevelop existing properties. This will instigate capital projects which will benefit the local economy.”
Sales of plots of land and reinvestment in property refurbishments
“The Trust does not have an embargo on selling land, but it must weigh up the benefits and timing of releasing property in order to achieve its wider charitable objectives.
“The Trust is currently offering plots of land for sale. The Trust will use the proceeds of these sales to refurbish other properties in need of renovation, some of which are in the public eye.”
“As the principal tourist attraction on the island, Mount Stuart Trust invests consistently in promoting Bute to a wide audience for the wider economic benefit of the island.
“Activities/investments include significant marketing and promotional activities at regional, national and international level.”
3. Other support from the Bute family for the Bute community
Assets gifted to The Mount Stuart Trust
“The late Marquess of Bute generously endowed the Trust with not just the Bute Estate itself but also other assets which produce income which can only be used for the public benefit.
“Included in this is an investment fund. The Bute family do not derive personal financial benefit from the income from this fund which is used to provide sufficient resources to enable the Trust to carry out its charitable objectives in preserving Mount Stuart and Bute Estate.”
The Bute Charitable Trust
“This charity was also endowed by the Bute family and funds numerous initiatives annually. Applications are received from a wide cross-section of the island’s community – perhaps to cover costs of travel for a local sporting organisation for off-island activities, or for uniforms/sports kit.
“Since 2007, between £13,000 and £18,000 per annum was committed to smaller groups/organisations/individuals to assist with their running costs or specific initiatives.”