Well, it’s a very, very complicated procedure but basically back in 2004 the Pairc Trust held a ballot of the local community to check whether the local community were in favour of buying the estate and the answer was ‘Yes’, it was an overwhelming ‘Yes’ vote. An application was then put in under Part 3 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act to buy most of the land of the estate, in fact the common grazings area of the estate because the mapping requirements of the Act are extremely onerous and for pragmatic reasons it was decided to exclude the townships because the mapping was very, very difficult to do. The problem was that the landlord set up what is called an interposed lease so that, even if we were to buy the land, it would be almost worthless because most of the rights were leased for seventy-five years to a subsidiary company which he controls called Pairc Renewables Limited. Now that subsidiary company has entered into a lease with Scottish and Southern Energy for a commercial wind farm which is a major factor in the value of the estate. So buying the land itself would not have really given the community any levers over what we want to do. The whole validity of the interposed lease was in question for quite a while. The government referred it to the Land Court, and it took two years to determine. The Land Court judgement in 2007 found that the interposed lease was legally valid but that the community should have the right to acquire it, so the legislation was amended to make it clear that that was the case. At that point the landlord started discussions with the Pairc Trust with a view to a voluntary or amicable agreement and, as I said, we would far prefer to do that, still would, but we concluded last year that the sort of powers that were needed, powers that other community bodies have and the powers that we would need to reverse the population trends, were not going to be made available. So in 2009 we reluctantly concluded that we would have to go back down the Part 3 route. So another ballot was held in December of 2009. The ballot question this time explicitly included the lease as well as the land which hadn’t been the case in the previous ballot. Again, we got an emphatic endorsement by the community of their wish to buy the land and the lease. There was a 75% turn-out and 69% voted in favour. So on the basis of that the Pairc Trust have submitted two new applications for the land and for the lease. The two should be seen together but they are separate applications as they have to be under the legislation.

  • John Randall
Thursday 3rd June 2010