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Tuesday, March 2, 1999 Published at 18:01 GMT


Residents' buy-out victory

Knoydart has suffered from neglect by absentee landlords

Residents of a remote Scottish peninsula have succeeded in buying the estate they live on, after years of conflict with a succession of private landlords.

The BBC's James Shaw reports from rainy Fort William
The Knoydart Foundation has bought the 17,000-acre Knoydart estate on the west coast for 750,000.

The purchase came within weeks of the receivers for owners Knoydart Peninsula Ltd putting the estate back on the market as the foundation appeared unable to raise enough cash.

But late last week, musicals impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh, who owns a neighbouring estate, came up with 75,000 to bridge the gap for the foundation which comprises local residents, two wildlife charities, public agencies and a local estate owner.

[ image:  ]
The buy-out ends decades of uncertainty and neglect for the magnificent, but road-less, estate in Western Inverness-shire.

Knoydart Peninsula Ltd - the latest in a succession of private owners - went into receivership last year with debts estimated at 1.4m.

The community says the absentee landlords did nothing to help the peninsula and secure its future.

Strengthened rights

The residents are now hoping that tourism will help provide the area with a viable future.

Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar announced in January that the rights of communities who work and live on the land were to be strengthened.

The power for the government to purchase mismanaged Highland estates under compulsory purchase orders was just one of a series of proposals.

Other measures will allow tenants to apply for lottery cash to buy an estate if it comes on the market.

[ image: Scotland's land ownership system is changing]
Scotland's land ownership system is changing
The abolition of the last traces of the 900-year old feudal system are also among government proposals.

Pressure for reform of the flawed system had been building for some time. A number of cases - including Knoydart - have highlighted the problems of absentee landlords.

Foundation Chairman Councillor Charlie King said:"We have created history here today. Knoydart was possibly the worst example of land abuse in Scotland.

"We hope that what we have done will provide an example for others to follow and also show the path for the new Scottish Land Reform Bill."

Resident Bernard Evemy, one of three community directors on the foundation, said: "We have a new chieftain today - the people of Knoydart.

"We have won the first stage of the fight, but we must continue our struggle to establish Knoydart as a thriving community".

'Huge leap forward'

The John Muir Trust, named after the Scot who founded North America's first national park at Yosemite provided 250,000, including 100,000 from the estate of the late Mrs Elizabeth Gladstone.

The Chris Brasher Trust, founded by the Olympic medallist, contributed 200,000.

The Community Land Unit of the government's local jobs agency, Highlands and Islands Enterprise contributed 75,000 and the government's environmental agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, put in another 50,000 of public money.

Local MP David Stewart, who represents Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, said: "This announcement represents a huge leap forward for land rights in Scotland and is a tribute to the courage and determination of local residents".

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05 Jan 99|UK
The powers behind the glen

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