MSP gives backing to Bute land campaign

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Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell has given his support to a campaign calling for greater community involvement in the management of land on Bute.

Mr Russell said the work of the Mount Stuart Trust, which owns 89 per cent of the land on the island, would benefit from the involvement of a wider range of island residents.

Mr Russell is one of those who has applied for membership of the Trust as part of a campaign by land rights author Andy Wightman to open up the working of the organisation to ordinary members of the public - although most of the applications delivered to the Trust’s head office on September 26 were from people not living on the island.

Mr Russell said: “I have often spoken positively about the Trust and indeed I met with them only last week. But I believe the Trust would be even more effective if it had in membership a wider group of people with a range of skills and experience, who were also locally resident.

“My own application is merely to start the ball rolling - I am sure there are many others living on or close to the island who could help and who would enhance the Trust’s ability to work in the interests of every one who lives here.”

Mount Stuart Trust chief executive Connie Lovel told The Buteman on Thursday: “The Trust will be carefully considering the applications for membership and how this may serve the best interests of the Trust in fulfilling its charitable objectives.

“It is, however, important to make clear what the objectives of the Mount Stuart Trust are as well as what has been, and is being, achieved.

“It is deeply regrettable in our view that the achievements of the Trust and what is provided for the public good is not recognised in any way by the campaigners.”

Mr Wightman said: “This is an extremely welcome intervention from Michael Russell, and it sends a clear message to the current owners of Bute: from the grass roots to the corridors of power, Scottish public opinion is against the old model of aristocratic land ownership and entitlement.

“The Mount Stuart Trust now have a decision to make. Are they a genuine charity which puts the interests of the residents of Bute first?

“If so, then they will have no choice but to accept applications from excellent candidates like Michael Russell, and start opening up Bute to local residents.

“Or will they batten down the hatches, decline every application, and confirm local fears that they are motivated only by their own self-interest?”

To read Mrs Lovel’s statement in full, click on the link to the right of this article.