The Angry Corrie 25: Nov 1995-Jan 1996
And they call it democracy...
As feared, a certain amount of confusion now reigns over the NTS acquisition of Mar Lodge Estate. Certainly the impression given by press releases at the time was that the purchase was once-and-for-all, end of story. Now there are strong hints that the estate has been merely taken on a 20 or 25 year lease, whereupon it would possibly revert to the previous owner Kluge or his heirs. Quite whether this is the case is proving difficult to determine, since TAC has so far written several letters without any clear-cut statement. (Part of the trouble in obtaining clarification lies in simply determining who is on what committee or council, there being so much overlap and interchange between, say, the NTS, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Countryside Activities Council. Your editor, for one, gets more than a little confused at times.)
Anyway, we'll try to clarify things before next issue. The insistence on the estate still being run as a commercial stalking concern is perhaps a little easier to understand in this light.
Having said this, the future of Mar Lodge is crystal clear when compared with the identity of the so-called Easter Trust (now known in some circles as the Anonymous Trust), who have put up bigtime money for the "purchase". There are whispers of Prince Charles - strongly denied, but then what do you expect? - and also of the ubiquitous Atholl Estates being in there somewhere. Even members of the NTS Council seem to have been stonewalled on this one: so much for the public's right to know. Just about the only person definitely ruled out is Will Carling.
(Should any NTSers - or high-ranking Royals - wish to write in with clarification we'd be more than glad to hear from them.)
Three other big estates are also undergoing changes: Glenavon, Corrour and Ben Alder. Glenavon (41000 acres) has recently been offloaded by its previous owners, the Wills fag family, to a Malaysian businessman. Maybe he paid for it in coupons. The putative anonymous overseas buyers of 48210-acre Corrour transpired to be Lisbet and Joseph Koerner, of the giant Tetra Pak company. Although Swedish by nationality, they both profess to teach at Harvard University in the States, and plan to visit their new holiday home, with their weans, in the spring. How nice for them. This brings the total landmass of Scotland to be in Scandinavian hands to something around 150000 acres. Slightly further east, Ben Alder Lodge is apparently due a multimillion pound refit, with the estate road in from Dalwhinnie to be equipped with underfloor heating, à la Ibrox, Murrayfield and Stair Park. There are also to be four new houses built nearby the lodge, and the now almost routine helipad.
In the finest tradition of departmental leaks, TAC has received a copy of the annual report of something called The Countryside Business Group (head office in that much-loved bit of countryside, 32 Bruton St, London W1X 8JS). This starts promisingly, with "A message from the chairman to shoot owners and tenants", but sadly quickly degenerates into fiscal wittering about the National Game Levy and paranoia about animal rights activists. There are pics of posh-looking men in suits, and another bloke with some dogs and a stick. Should you aspire to their ranks, membership fees can be calculated by a method which makes TAC's book-ordering process look simple, involving figures for the commercial value of game (eg £40 for a grouse, £200 for a stag), a shoot levy and of course VAT. It seems you can join for an annual minimum of £1000 (rising to £10000 for big concerns); alternatively, the latter sum could be used to subscribe to TAC until June 3662. The choice is yours.
The Scottish Campaign for Public Angling (SCAPA) have extended beyond their normal remit by organising a public meeting "to establish a radical campaigning organisation prepared to use civil resistance to bring about land reform". This hopes to bring together concerns over land tenure injustices, walking access difficulties, angling issues and concern over motorway development. It may well be quite a sizable meeting - SCAPA has invited around 150 organisations and individuals - and will hopefully maintain the momentum of last year's anti-Criminal Justice Bill protests. The meeting is to be in the Golden Lion Hotel, King St, Stirling at 1pm on Saturday 25th November. Anyone interested in attending - or in simply sending a message of support - should contact Derek Keith on 0131-467-6152.
Finally, more CWCD (credit where credit's due): Roderick Manson spotted a "walkers welcome" sign beneath 479m Carn na Dubh Choille north of Garve.