Mount Stuart Postscript

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Since it became clear in mid-November 2012 that neither the Applecross Trust nor the Mount Stuart Trust were interested in admitting a wider membership to the respective companies, we took the decision to suspend any further campaigning on the topic. There was, however, one outstanding issue. The Mount  Stuart Trust had never responded to the applications for membership. It was clear that, following changes that the Trust had made to its constitution, that they would be accepting none of the applications but yet we waited.

On 29 April 2013, the Mount Stuart Trust wrote to all applicants (including many on Bute and the local MSP Michael Russell) to inform them that their applications had been refused. The Trust issued a media release with the news and details of three new members who are to be appointed as Directors of the company.

In response, Andy Wightman, co-ordinator of the Land Action Scotland campaign issued the following statement.

“I am disappointed that Mount Stuart Trust has turned down all the applications for membership that were made last October. Far from making the Trust more democratic, the Board has decided to restrict membership to a maximum of twelve and permit the Marquess of Bute (a tax-exile who does not even live in the UK) to appoint four of the Directors.

A charity that owns land on this scale purportedly for the public interest should be open to the public to join as members. The issue is now in front of the Land Reform Review Group since legislative change is now the only way to force these exclusive charities to properly represent and serve the interests of the residents of Bute and the wider public.”

These comments have been reported in the Buteman here.

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Campaign closes

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Today is the deadline for receipt of completed application forms for membership of The Mount Stuart Trust. It has adopted new Articles of Association which cap membership at 12 and they are seeking to expand their Board from 7 to 12 Directors (all of whom have to be members). Membership is now by invitation only and the Marquess of Bute (who is not a member and who, we understand does not live in the UK) now has the power to appoint up to 4 Directors. See Bute page for relevant extracts of the new constitution.

The Applecross Trust has now refused all applications for membership. We regret the disruption this has caused in Applecross. This was a campaign directed at the charitable company that owns the estate. Had it been successful, local people would today be in a position (if they so chose) to apply for membership of the Trust in the same way as they could do for many other charities. Instead, the company has taken over six weeks to respond and has itself been responsible for stirring matters up in the community. We will continue to work with any and all who seek a democratic future. Meanwhile, we look forward to finding out who the new Director of the company will be when Mr Bertie steps down at the AGM.

Our opening campaign to open up membership of The Mount Stuart Trust and The Applecross Trust is therefore now over and Land Actions Scotland will be making no further attempts to seek membership of these two organisations. What individuals who have had their applications rejected might do, however, is of course entirely up to them.

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Applecross refusal letter

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Those of us who applied for membership of The Applecross Trust have now received a letter from the Trust letting us know that “the Trust respectfully refuses your application for membership“.

Here is the letter.

And here is a memo which accompanies it and which was sent to all residents of Applecross on or around 20 October 2012.

The memo is worth a close read. It should also be noted that the document  fails to describe fully the details of the Applecross Trust and its history. In particular, the statement at the foot of page 1 that “These members of the public remain the sole beneficiaries of the Trust” is misleading as the Trust referred to no longer owns the estate.

The bulk of the estate was transferred to the Trustees of Applecross Trust in 1985. In 1992, the “The Applecross Estate Trust” was established (both legal trusts). In March 2006 title to the estate was transferred to The Applecross Trust (a limited company incorporated 28 December 2005) where it remains today.

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Charles Kennedy MP

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Charles Kennedy MP has issued the following media release. (pdf download here)

West Highland MP Charles Kennedy has written to the Applecross Trust to express his concern, following the rejection of over one hundred land reformers’ applications to become Trust members.

The Applecross Trust is owned by six members, none of whom live in or near Applecross. The Trust owns 61,600 acres of the peninsula.

In his letter, Charles Kennedy MP wrote:

“Many of those applying (including myself) have only the best interests of Applecross and its people in mind, and a greater (and geographically closer) connection to the peninsula than many of the trustees.

“It is an absolute that the wishes and best interests of the people of Applecross must be paramount in this matter. I believe that the interests of local communities are best served by locals having a say in the management and running of their area. That is a fundamentally liberal principle, and one to which I have always held.

“I am glad that the Trust has consulted the local community throughout this matter, but I would ask more specifically exactly what measures have been taken in this consultation, and how extensive those measures have been.”

The campaign to open up the Trust has been led by noted Land Reformer Andy Wightman, author of Who Owns Scotland?

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Mr Kennedy’s letter appears in full below:

Dear Mr MacLellan,

Thank you for your letter regarding my application for membership of the Applecross Trust.

I am disappointed that you have chosen to reject these applications so rapidly – and by inference in total? Many of those applying (including myself) have only the best interests of Applecross and its people in mind, and a greater (and geographically closer) connection to the peninsula than many of the trustees.

It is an absolute that the wishes and best interests of the people of Applecross must be paramount in this matter. I believe that the interests of local communities are best served by locals having a say in the management and running of their area. That is a fundamentally liberal principle, and one to which I have always held.

I am glad that the Trust has consulted the local community throughout this matter, but I would ask more specifically exactly what measures have been taken in this consultation, and how extensive those measures have been.

I await your reply with interest.

Meantime, with best wishes.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Charles Kennedy

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Applecross Trust rejects applications

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The Applecross Trust has issued a Media Release at 1523hrs today 13 November 2012 (copied below)

The Trust has refused all applications for membership.

We fail to see how opening up the membership of this charity would not “have delivered any benefit to the peninsula, particularly in light of the fact that so many of the applications for membership had no connections with the peninsula whatsoever.”

The existing six members of the Trust (including Charles Peregrine Albermarle Bertie who is now 80 yrs old and must retire as a Director) live in Berkshire, Edinburgh, Inverness, Newcastleton, Reading and Hampshire! Their only connection with the peninsula is that they own it.

Moreover, the claim that “More importantly, the local community – whom we consulted – share this view” is interesting. What form did that consultation take? Was everyone in the community consulted? Does this alleged consultation have any relation to the flawed and misleading petition mentioned in a previous post?

—————————————————————————————–
13/11/12

APPLECROSS TRUST TO DEVELOP COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT INITIATIVE
(Issued on behalf of The Applecross Trust)
The Applecross Trust announced today it is to develop the Applecross Landscape Partnership Scheme (ALPS) which is regarded as a highly successful and productive community engagement initiative.

ALPS will be reviewed and developed for the future when it completes its current programme of projects and will involve a wide range of community organisations and representatives from the Applecross peninsula.

The ALPS scheme (www.visit-applecross.org) aims to conserve and promote the cultural and natural heritage of one of Scotland’s most scenic areas. It involves seven separate community-based organisations and has been successful in delivering more than 40 local projects.

Archie MacLellan, Administrator of The Applecross Trust, said: “The Trust is proud of its success in promoting community engagement for many years but it agrees with the community that there is always scope for innovation and moving forward.

“We will therefore strive to strengthen the various partnership groups so as to take new ideas forward in tandem with them on an ongoing basis, in particular through the development of the Applecross Landscape Partnership Scheme. The message we have received from the local community is that the overwhelming majority of local people support the Trust and its work and believe this is the best way forward.

“Recently, we have witnessed the Land Action Scotland campaign which ostensibly wanted to improve local accountability. In reality, it is a politically motivated campaign to gain control of The Applecross Trust. The Trust does not think this would have delivered any benefit to the peninsula, particularly in view of the fact that so many of the applications for membership had no connections with the peninsula whatsoever. More importantly, the local community – whom we consulted – share this view. We have had many messages of support from the community who have made it clear that this campaign has been unwelcome.

“The Trust has respectfully refused the applications and looks forward to continue working with the local community, as we have always done, to deliver enduring and meaningful public benefit to Applecross which is the core objective of this Trust.”

ENDS

For further information:-

Ramsay Smith
Media House
m: 0141 220 6040 / 07788 414 856
e: ramsay@mediahouse.co.uk

Christine MacKenzie
Media House
m: 0141 220 6040
e: christinemack@mediahouse.co.uk

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Response from The Applecross Trust

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In our 7 November post, we indicated that no response had been received from the Applecross Trust. In fact the Trust did respond on 6 November but we did not receive it. Today (13 November), the Trust resent the response and we reproduce it below.

Andy,

The Applecross Trust has responded by letter to each application for membership received during the last five weeks. The Trust has been considering the basis of these applications, particularly in view of the fact that so few of them emanate from the local area. Nevertheless, the Trust has been carefully considering the matters raised and is consulting with members of the local community and looking at the best way forward for the Trust and the Community. As stated previously, the Trust will honour its promise to revert to each applicant individually in due course and this will
be done timeously.

As regards your comments about encouraging applicants to make complaints about the Trust’s approach on this matter to OSCR, please feel free to do so as the Trust is satisfied that it is not only acting within the Company and Charity regulations but continues to act in the spirit of a charitable organisation whose raison d’etre is to deliver public benefit to the communities of Applecross. You are very welcome to make this email public on your website to update other applicants.

Thanks.

Archie MacLellan

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Unconsulted Applecross Speaks

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An open letter from Dr Mark Stewart and seven other residents of Applecross has been issued to the media and is reproduced below. Land Action Scotland response is as follows.

  • We have not seen the text of the petition referred to and have asked Dr Stewart for a copy. From what is stated in the letter, however, Dr Stewart appears to misunderstand the campaign. The letter claims that over 110 individuals have recorded “that they have not been consulted by the Applecross Community Company, nor the Applecross Community Council, about the activity orchestrated in the press regarding the management of the Applecross Estate
  • Land Action Scotland would like to make it clear that neither of these two organisations have had anything whatsoever to do with the campaign. Indeed neither even knew of the campaign until after it was launched. It appears therefore, that the 110 signatories might have been misled into signing a petition based on incorrect assumptions. Furthermore, the campaign is not concerned with “the management of the Applecross Estate”. It is concerned with the membership of the charitable company that owns the estate.
  • Land Actions Scotland does not have any issue with the residents of Applecross who are free to agree or disagree with the campaign and free to apply to join or not as they see fit. We do, however, have an issue with the Applecross Trust restricting its membership to the family and friends of the Wills’ family.
  • It follows that there are no” issues of misrepresentation and questionable legitimacy” for the simple reason that the  two organisations that appear to be the target of the petitioners have had nothing whatsoever to do with this campaign. Instead, the  issues of misrepresentation and questionable legitimacy” might better be addressed to those who appear to have framed a petition that sought signatures based on a false premise.
—————————————————-

UNCONSULTED APPLECROSS SPEAKS

OPEN LETTER 10 November 13 (sic)

We wish to convey that members of the community have now documented their view on the control of Applecross Estate.

We quote from Brian Wilson’s article in the WHFP, with reference to the initiative by Andy Wightman,   supported by prominent members of The Applecross Community Company and The Applecross Community Council, regarding the control of Applecross :

‘It will be interesting to see how Applecross itself responds …. In addition to the few who have declared themselves in favour, I have no doubt that there will be supporters who deem it prudent to keep their heads below the parapet in a community where “the big house” is so dominant. Others will see no problem with the status quo. At some point, the relative strength of these forces will have to be measured.’ (our emphasis)
WHFP 05 OCT 12 p16.

We would like formally to note that over one hundred and ten signed individual statements of support, representing a majority of the population, have now been delivered to the Applecross Estate Trust, in which the signatories recorded that they have not been consulted by the Applecross Community Company, nor the Applecross Community Council, about the activity orchestrated in the press regarding the management of the Applecross Estate.

It is important to note that there is significant cross fertilization of positions between these two allegedly community based organisations, which coupled with a total lack of consultation and communication has led to a widespread perception of disenfranchisement.

The signatories also endorsed Applecross Estate’s strategic plan for the management of the estate, the majority of whom support the status quo, others recorded that while they support the Estate’s evolving plan for participative management, they hope that if changes to the formal relationship between Applecross and the composition of the Trust Board are to be considered, then they are dealt with by careful inclusive negotiation, and not with a small group of individuals with an unrepresentative political agenda.

We consider that there is considerable merit in Brian Wilson’s suggestion that the relative strength of opinion in Applecross will have to be measured. The argument, as presently documented in the press, is conveyed both without balance, nor a measured democratic constituency.

We trust that the import of this letter will help address these issues of misrepresentation and questionable legitimacy.

Dr Janice Cargill
Janet Mackay
Andy Collis
Dr Mark Stewart
Alister Brown
Michael Summers
Ruaridh Cameron
Alister MacCowan

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Latest News 7 November 2012

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MOUNT STUART TRUST

The Mount Stuart Trust has, by special resolution on 16 October 2012, adopted new Articles of Association under the Companies Act 2006.

The key changes to their previous Memorandum & Articles of Association are as follows.

The Trust has placed a ceiling on the number of members of the Company.

“26.1 There shall be a maximum of twelve members of the Company ….”

In the previous Articles there was no such stated limit.

Members now have to be invited by the Directors

“26.2 The Members of the Company will be such persons as shall be invited by the Directors to become additional or new Members of the Company…”

In the previous Articles anyone could apply to join.

The Marquess of Bute, who is not even a member of the Company (and is understood to live overseas), now has the power to appoint up to four Directors.

“21.1 Directors shall be those “nominated in writing to the Board by the person holding the Title and Dignity of the Marquess of Bute for up to a maximum of four Directors…”

In the previous Articles, he had the power to appoint only one Director.

Meanwhile we understand for a source close to the Trust that it has already decided on who will be the new five Directors it announced on 25 Oct would be appointed.

Nepotism and cronyism rule on the Island of Bute.

APPLECROSS

Meanwhile the Applecross Trust has still to respond (beyond an acknowledgement of receipt) to the membership applications that were delivered to the Registered Office of the Trust over 40 days ago on 27 September 2012.

We contacted the Trust by email on 5 November asking to be told when it intended taking forward these applications. We advised them that if we did not hear within 48 hours (noon today – 7 November) that we would advise applicants to make a formal complaint to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator. As of noon today, we have heard nothing.

UPDATE 13 November 2012 The Applecross Trust did in fact respond by email on 6 November but this email was not received by us. On 13 November, the Trust resent the email and we have published it today (13 November).

 

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Mount Stuart Trust membership closes

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All those who applied for membership of The Mount Stuart Trust prior to 16 October and who return the application form by 16 November will have their applications considered by the Board of The Mount Stuart Trust according to a letter received by applicants dated 25 October 2012. The Trust has confirmed that as of 16 October it amended its Memorandum and Articles of Association (M&A) and, as a consequence, “we will not be considering any new applicants who were not in touch with the Trust prior to 16 October.

We have not seen the new M&A although we requested a copy yesterday. It is clear, however, that the Trust has closed off any prospect of becoming a properly democratic membership body and, instead, remains determined to  be run by a small number of self-appointed members/Directors none of who will be accountable to any wider public membership never mind the the residents of Bute. This is a regrettable development and underscores the need for further reform in the way charities are governed so as to ensure that the public (in whose name benefits are provided and taxes avoided) can have a proper voice in the organisation. Only open and democratic governance can ensure the best future for the 89% of Bute owned by the Mount Stuart Trust.

Nepotism and cronyism should have no place in charitable bodies that own land in Scotland.

For those who have yet to complete an application form, we advise that you do so and return it by 16 November 2012.

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Mount Stuart Trust to appoint new Directors

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In a press release issued today, The Mount Stuart Trust announced that it would be appointing five new Directors to the Board in December including “a number from the island’s community”. We welcome this move that will increase the numbers on the Board from seven to twelve. We also welcome the fact that some of these appointments will be residents of Bute.

This does not, however, address the central point of the campaign which is to open up ordinary membership to everyone who lives on Bute and beyond. It is wrong that 89% of the island continues to be owned by a charitable company that appears to continue to wish to restrict membership to the tiny number of people who are Board members.

Furthermore, the Trust announced that it “has already advised the regulatory body for charities in Scotland that it has taken steps to update its constitution whilst at the same time widening the membership of the board of directors to include representation of the wider community interest on Bute.”

Might these changes involve restricting the membership to a certain number (perhaps 12?) who must also be Directors? Might they be intended to close off any further applications for membership? Might they even delete Clause 40(a)(i) of the Articles of Association (pg35) which states that the person “who for the time being is entitled to the name, style and dignity of Marquess of Bute” may appoint a Director. The Marquess of Bute is not even a member of Mount Stuart Trust.

We have asked the Trust what these changes are and will report when we hear back from them.

 

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