Businessman blames Slater for collapsed sale

10 Apr 2024
Kinloch Castle, Isle of Rum

Article in The Herald, Wednesday 10th April 2024.

Businessman blames Slater for collapsed sale

A BUSINESSMAN and councillor who helped facilitate a prospective deal to regenerate a A-listed island castle has questioned Lorna Slater's assertion that she had "very little involvement in the collapsed sale.

Jeremy Hosking, a city financier and former Conservative Party donor, was in late-stage negotiations to buy Kinloch Castle on the Isle of Rum before he pulled out of the deal.

Angus MacDonald, Highland Councillor for Fort William and Ardnamurchan, said he introduced Mr Hosking to the project and terms were agreed with owner NatureScot to fund £10 million of repairs and set up a charity to manage the building.

He said the deal was "almost complete" when Highland MSP Kate Forbes went on maternity leave and transferred the project to the Biodiversity Minister.

He claims Ms Slater was of the view that islanders did not want a private buyer but following a trip to Rum changed her view after speaking to islanders.

Mr Hosking later pulled out of the deal, accusing the Scottish Green of "crushing a conservation project" and described the prospective sale as a "horrible process".

The Herald revealed earlier this week that the Biodiversity Minister claimed in a letter to Ms Forbes to have had “very little involvement in the sale, positive or negative". This provoked an angry response from Clir MacDonald, a Liberal Democrat and businessman who owns Highland Cinema in Fort William and a bookshop.

"Ms Slater is entirely responsible," he said.

"I introduced Mr Hosking to the project, he agreed heads of terms with NatureScot via Savills to inject £10m, and the transaction was nearly complete when Kate Forbes went on maternity leave and passed the baton on to Green MSP Lorna Slater.

"At that point nothing happened for around 18 months, with Ms Slater claiming that the islanders were against a private buyer.

"She finally went to visit the island (using a very expensive private charter rather than CalMac) and learned that in fact the majority of the residents were in favour of selling to a private buyer."

The Scottish Government has now commissioned a Delphi study to garner the views of islanders and a conservation group.

"I shudder to think what this will cost," said Clir MacDonald. "Everyone knows that in a single day a respected neutral individual would have been able to interview the 22 adults on the island.

"This Grade A property has just suffered another winter of neglect when everyone knows there is a huge urgency to save it. Lorna Slater, you should hang your head in shame."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government and NatureScot remain focused on securing a sustainable future for Kinloch Castle.

"In response to Mr Hoskins's proposals, the Isle of Rum Community Trust (IRCT) expressed strong concerns, at which point Ms Slater visited Rum to meet with all available residents.

"It was agreed that further community engagement was needed in order to reach a consensus on the best way forward. The first stage of a Delphi study which aims to bring the Rum community to a consensus around the conditions of sale for Kinloch Castle has now begun.

"It is being carried out in-house by the Scottish Government's own Rural and Environmental Science and Analytical Services (RESAS) division and is the most cost-effective option. A final report is expected to be published this autumn."

The turreted, two-storey castle was built as a private residence for Sir George Bullough, a textile tycoon from Lancashire whose father bought Rum as his summer residence and shooting estate.

It was designed to satisfy the whims of an extravagant and lavish Victorian lifestyle, and houses a German-made orchestrion organ said to have been made for Queen Victoria, which is designed to reproduce the sound of a full orchestra.

Article in The Herald, Wednesday 10th April 2024.
Words by Caroline Wilson. Reproduced with permission.

This website uses cookies

Like most websites, this site uses cookies. Some are required to make it work, while others are used for statistical or marketing purposes. If you choose not to allow cookies some features may not be available, such as content from other websites. Please read our Cookie Policy for more information.

Essential cookies enable basic functions and are necessary for the website to function properly.
Statistics cookies collect information anonymously. This information helps us to understand how our visitors use our website.
Marketing cookies are used by third parties or publishers to display personalized advertisements. They do this by tracking visitors across websites.