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Thursday, July 22, 1999 Published at 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK


Residents on starting grid in island sale

The ferry crossing from Largs takes seven minutes

The island of Great Cumbrae, off the Ayrshire coast, is to be sold by its owner, the former Formula One racing driver Johnny Dumfries.

The popular holiday resort is home to nearly 1,300 people and is linked to the mainland by a seven-minute ferry crossing from Largs.

The island is currently owned by the Seventh Marquis of Bute, Johnny Dumfries, as part of the Bute estates.

[ image: Cumbrae attracts many visitors]
Cumbrae attracts many visitors
The former racing driver is reported to be offering the island for sale as a whole or in lots.

The island is owned by London-based property company Cumbrae Properties (1963), whose directors are membrs of the Bute family.

The marquis told The Herald: "This is a purely commercial decision based on the fact that Great Cumbrae is the last agricultural property in the portfolio of our company and it no longer fits in with the way we see the company developing."

He has sent a personal letter to the five tenant farmers on the island, inviting them to consider buying their farms.

Buy-out possibility

One of the possibilities to be explored is a buy-out by the islanders but this would be different from those on islands such as Assynt and Eigg because the Marquis of Bute does not own all the land or property.

This will be discussed next week after the Johnny Dumfries has set an asking price. There is speculation this may be in excess of £3m.

[ image: Brian Wilson:
Brian Wilson: "Great opportunity"
The Labour Cunninghame North MP, Brian Wilson, is keen to pursue a form of community ownership and it is a real opportunity for local people to shape the future of Cumbrae.

He says the situation is unlikely to arise again for many years and the outcome will be crucial to the future development of the island.

But a former Scottish National Party councillor on the island, Robert Rae, said: "I think it may be practical for islands such as Eigg but in the case of Cumbrae I don't think it is terribly practical.

Robert Rae: "Nothing for people of Millport"
"The town of Millport has 1,300 people in it and we should be saying 'what's in it for them'. I would suggest not very much."

The Scottish Executive has announced plans for a Land Reform White Paper, the first stage in a five-year rolling programme of land reform.

This will give communities the right to register an interest on land where they live.

Market rate

When they know an estate is up for sale, they will then have six months in which to organise a bid at the market rate for the property.

Under the terms of the White Paper, the purchase price would be determined by a government-appointed valuer.

The Scottish Landowners' Federation has voiced its concern over the "price fixing" of land for community groups - forcing sales of property at prices less than those paid by the original owners.

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