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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 July, 2003, 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK
Cuillins to be gifted to Scotland
The range is on the Isle of Skye
A Scottish mountain range is set to be gifted to the nation after the clan chief who owns it failed to find a buyer.

John MacLeod of MacLeod put the Cuillins on Skye on the market for 10m more than three years ago.

However, he is planning to hand them over to a public trust in return for repairs to his castle, Dunvegan.

Mr MacLeod said he wanted to be assured that the castle "would have a secure and viable future" before the handover was finalised.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), in collaboration with the MacLeod Estate, will assess the repair costs which could be more than 10m.

Charitable trusts

It is hoped the bill can be paid through grants from a range of heritage bodies.

If things go to plan then ownership of the castle and the mountains will be transferred to two separate charitable trusts.

However, Mr MacLeod and his family will continue to live in one part of Dunvegan Castle.

John MacLeod
I will be giving up properties which have been associated with my family for many centuries, and that is not at all easy
John MacLeod of MacLeod
Parts of the mountain range already belong to conservation charity, the John Muir Trust, and neighbouring land belongs to the Scottish Executive's agricultural department and to Forest Enterprise, another public body.

HIE said that a nationally-owned Cuillins, involving community, natural heritage and national interests, would take shape only after wide consultation in Skye and beyond.

The organisation believes the deal would create a national park similar to that seen in the US and Canada.

John MacLeod of MacLeod said: "If they (mountains and castle) can be transformed into national assets in this way, I shall be delighted.

"I will be giving up properties which have been associated with my family for many centuries, and that is not at all easy.

Dunvegan Castle
Repairs would be carried out to Dunvegan Castle
"But the possibilities I am now discussing with HIE and with Highland Council seem to me to hold out an excellent prospect of securing the long-term future of the Cuillin, and of Dunvegan Castle, in a manner that could bring real and enduring benefits both to Skye and to Scotland."

HIE chairman, Dr James Hunter, said there would be "some way to go" before a deal was done.

He added: "We've been given the opportunity to obtain this for the Scottish people, and that's an opportunity neither we nor Scotland can afford to miss."

Representatives from Highland Council, Skye and Lochalsh Enterprise and John Muir Trust all welcomed the possibility the Cullins could be gifted.

The plan has also been welcomed by First Minister Jack McConnell.

Mr McConnell said the mountain range and Dunvegan Castle are internationally recognised parts of Scottish heritage and securing their future will be good news for the country.

BBC Scotland's Elizabeth Quigley
"There have been no buyers so far"

Cuillins owner considers 'gift'
20 Jul 01  |  Scotland
Protest over access to Cuillins
10 Apr 01  |  Scotland
New twist in Cuillins sale
19 Jul 00  |  Scotland
Cuillins ownership fight ruled out
18 Jul 00  |  Scotland
Cuillins sale title inquiry
18 May 00  |  Scotland

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