A leading campaigner for land reform in Scotland has expressed his continuing disappointment at the Mount Stuart Trust following the appointment of three new directors to its board.
The appointment of Peter Timms, Hans Rissmann and Francis Russell followed a campaign started in October 2012 by Andy Wightman of Land Action Scotland, which aimed to encourage the public to apply for membership of the Trust.
Following the announcement of the new board members’ appointments, Mr Wightman criticised the Trust for declining all the applications for ordinary membership submitted as a result of his campaign.
Mr Wightman, who describes himself on his blog and website as “a writer, researcher, analyst, commentator and activist on issues of land, power, governance, democracy and money”. told The Buteman: “I am disappointed that Mount Stuart Trust has turned down all the applications for membership that were made last October.
“Far from making the Trust more democratic, the Board has decided to restrict membership to a maximum of twelve and permit the Marquess of Bute (a tax-exile who does not even live in the UK) to appoint four of the directors.
“A charity that owns land on this scale purportedly for the public interest should be open to the public to join as members.
“The issue is now in front of the Land Reform Review Group since legislative change is now the only way to force these exclusive charities to properly represent and serve the interests of the residents of Bute and the wider public.”
The Trust’s three new directors all have connections to Bute or Mount Stuart: Mr Timms is the chairman and managing director of island-based firm Flexible Technology Ltd, while Mr Rissmann, chief executive of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre since 1993, is a past manager of the island’s largest hotel, the Glenburn in Rothesay.
Mr Russell, deputy chairman of Christie’s, has been a frequent visitor to Bute over thirty years as well as an advisor to the Mount Stuart trustees on its art holdings.
Announcing the appointment of the new board members earlier this week, the Trust’s chief executive Connie Lovel said the organisation “was never intended to be a mass membership organisation”, but that all applications had been “considered carefully before coming to decisions”.
Mrs Lovel also said the Trust “believe[d] the new appointments will be of benefit to Bute and the community”.