Mike Russell MSP applies for membership
Land Action Scotland
Local Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell, who is also an SNP Cabinet Secretary, has backed a campaign launched this week to open up ownership of Bute to the local community. Alongside other supporters from across the country, he has filed an application to join the Mount Stuart Trust, the company that owns and manages 89% of the island. Mr Russell lives on the Argyll mainland next to Bute and part of the land in his community is also owned by what was the Bute Estate.
The Trust is currently wholly controlled by five members of the Marquess of Bute’s family plus an accountant and lawyer, none of whom live on Bute. Land Action Scotland, established by author and land rights campaigner Andy Wightman, is encouraging residents of Bute and their supporters to apply to join the Trust to give local people a clear say in how their community is run for the first time.
More than a hundred applications for membership rights have been made since the campaign began on Wednesday 26 September. If successful, these new members will work with local residents to ensure community control over the island’s future. Further applications are being made daily through the Land Action Scotland website.
Michael Russell MSP said:
“I have had a very productive discussion with the Trust in recent days and I think their work is very important to the island. It seems to me, however, that there would be great benefit to be had from a wider membership that included those who live on the island or who work closely with the island.
“I would support local people seeking and gaining membership and my own application is simply designed to draw attention to the issue. I hope the Trust will think seriously about the matter and I will be writing to them to make that point.”
Andy Wightman, co-ordinator of the new Land Action Scotland campaign, said:
“This is an extremely welcome intervention from Michael Russell, and it sends a clear message to the current owners of Bute: from the grass roots to the corridors of power, Scottish public opinion is against the old model of aristocratic land ownership and entitlement.
“The Mount Stuart Trust now have a decision to make. Are they a genuine charity which puts the interests of the residents of Bute first? If so, then they will have no choice but to accept applications from excellent candidates like Michael Russell, and start opening up Bute to local residents. Or will they batten down the hatches, decline every application, and confirm local fears that they are motivated only by their own self-interest?”
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