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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.