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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Harrods owner laments land Bill
Balnagowan Castle
Mr Fayed bought the property in 1972
Outspoken businessman Mohamed Al Fayed has warned that a piece of new land legislation will turn Scotland into "a Russian backwater".

The Harrods owner also described members of the Scottish Parliament as "idiots" and said they should be "sent to a mental asylum".

Mr Fayed made his comments while being interviewed for a BBC Frontline Scotland programme investigating the debate about land ownership.

The businessman owns the lavish Balnagowan Castle on the shores of the Cromarty Firth in the north of Scotland along with 60,000 acres of surrounding land.

I don't know where they got this idea or initiated such a stupid, completely unintelligent practice

Mohammed Al Fayed

He bought the property for 60,000 in 1972 and has spent more than 4m restoring it.

The Land Reform Bill was unveiled by Scotland's Justice Minister Jim Wallace last year with the aim of promoting "responsible access to land".

It would widen access to Scotland's countryside and give rural communities the opportunity to buy land when it is put on the market.

Crofting communities would be able to buy land at any time.

Bill 'disaster'

Mr Fayed said: "This (Bill) would be a disaster and drive everybody away, because this is not acceptable.

"Especially if I pack up and go. I will do that because you do not know what you expect later.

"I don't know where they got this idea or initiated such a stupid, completely unintelligent practice - to hurt their own country."

Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed
Mr Fayed: Threatens to quit Scotland

However, local resident Sandy Chalmers said he believed the bill did not go far enough.

Mr Chalmers said landowners owned too much and the community needed to control more.

"I think there should be more benefits coming back to the community from our asset, because it is our asset after all.

"At the moment it is being completely controlled and dominated by people who don't live here. To me, that seems like an imbalance," he said.

'Total misreading'

Tenant farmer George Holden said he did not know why Mr Fayed opposed the Bill.

"You don't become a Scot because you can afford to buy a kilt," he said.

"The man is living in cloud cuckoo land if he thinks that is the case. But that's to his detriment.

"To his benefit is the fact that he provides employment and I think he should be content to do that.

"It is a total misreading of the bill to for him to be frightened of what might happen."

Frontline Scotland was transmitted on BBC1 Scotland on Tuesday 23 April at 2235BST.

BBC Scotland's Alan Mackay
"Mr Al Fayed said he would desert the Highland estate he loves"
See also:

28 Nov 01 | Scotland
New row over land reform plans
28 Nov 01 | Scotland
Access pledge in land plans
24 Aug 01 | Scotland
Land reform splits Lib Dems
18 Aug 01 | Scotland
Islanders consider community buy-out
13 Aug 01 | Scotland
Call to help residents buy island
10 Aug 01 | Scotland
Isle be yours - for 3.85m
16 Jul 01 | Scotland
Land reform warning to ministers
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