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Comrie Community Trust celebrates its
buy-out of Cultybraggan Camp, but admits
it does not know what to do with it
Teviot Scientific, Cultybraggan Farm, Comrie,
Filed 15 Sep 07
Under the heading
"Village now the proud owner of ex-army
the local weekly newspaper, Strathearn Herald,
reported on 14th September that Comrie celebrated in style. The
article went on to quote Cathy Tilbrook, Chair of the Comrie Development
Trust (CDT) and whose part-time daytime job is with Scottish Natural
Heritage, as saying:
"This is a very exciting day for Comrie.
Owning this land gives us complete control over a very important
asset and an opportunity to develop the site in the way the community
It is of course not true that owning land gives
complete control over what you can do with it. The reality is very
different, on account of planning controls. Unless, of course, the
new owners somehow have a means of influencing such controls which
are not available to others.
But most significantly, the newspaper reported
a trust spokesperson as saying that
"A decision has yet to be made over Cultybraggan's
This is in direct conflict with the basic premise
of Community Buy-outs. It is blatant contradiction to what the community
were emphatically told at the start of the buy-out campaign: namely,
that a sound business plan and demonstration of economic sustainability
were imperatives. Neither has come any where near being achieved.
The excuse that six months is not long enough to think about these
things does not wash. Six months would be more than ample time for
any competent commercial enterrprise.
The CDT spokesperson is also quoted as saying
"The key thing is the buy-out of the land
and that is where our attention is focused at the moment"
So the CDT, with the support of the Scottish Executive
and the Highlands and Islands Enterprise Community Land Unit (HIECLU),
were apparently quite happy to ignore the basic rules of Community
Buy-outs in order to facilitate Government policy. HIECLU is contracted
by the Big Lottery Fund to oversee the propriety of community buy-outs
It would seem that Scotland is descending, even
faster than many of us thought, into third world politics, where
devious deals and political maneuvering are alleged to be the order
of the day.
The Strathearn Herald article also quotes the
local MSP, Roseanna Cunningham, as supporting the CDT buy-out. After
a member of the CDT had formally complained to her of serious irregularities
in the CDT buy-out procedure, she chose to respond, after talking
to the Secretary of the CDT and the Chairman of the Big Lottery
Fund, with bland reassurances. But Ms Cunningham is an SNP member
of the Scottish Parliament, who took part in formulating the Land
Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and its subsequent amendments. Quite
correctly, a formal complaint has now gone direct to the Chairman
of the Big Lottery Fund, asking him to justify his position, whereby
he sanctioned a promised expenditure of some £178.000 to the
Roseanna Cunningham MSP did her constituency a
further injustice. The Strathearn Herald quoted her as saying at
the celebration party:
"The buy-out proposal received massive
support from a great turn out when the community referendum was
Did she mean the initial one when the community
was asked if it wanted to have a say in the future of the Camp,
or the one on 20th August when the vote was taken whether or not
to buy the Camp?
These are two entirely different questions over
which the Comrie residents were asked to decide, and under very
If she was referring to the latter, then the fact
is that only some 12% of Comrie residents bothered to vote at all.
That means that some 78% of Comrie residents above the age of 18
either could not muster enough enthusiasm to sign up (for free)
to join the CDT, or they abstained. It was only signed up members
of the CDT who were eligible to participate in the final vote.
But no doubt the CDT could not care less, because,
by hook or by crook, they now own the land. And all that talk about
the need for a business plan and a sound economic forecast was just
a lot of hot air (2). And so also,
apparently, is the alleged scrutiny by the Scottish Executive and
the Community Land Unit, which is a section of Highlands & Islands
Enterprise, which receives grant funding to the tune of some £85million
per year. The Community Land Unit gets reimbursed for its costs
from the Big Lottery.
But the PR skills of the Secretary of the CDT
are to be greatly admired. The Strathearn Herald carried a charming
picture showing a choir of some 17 local children who had taken
part in the celebrations in Comrie's impressive Community Centre,
The White Church. That would guarantee an attendance of 2, to 3
or perhaps even 4 times their number, whatever the topic of the
occasion, from their justly proud relatives and chums.
The Comrie Development Trust undoubtedly
has achieved, and will continue to achieve, much for the Community.
But over the matter of the Camp buy-out, they have lost the trust
Within this affluent community, it would
appear that greed rather than sense has prevailed.
1. Editorial (2007). Concern over
Comrie Development Trust Community Buy-out continues
See SOCIAL/ECONOMIC/POLITICAL Homepage, filed 12 Sep 07,
Here to View
2. Irvine, james (2007). Comrie
Development Trust had a shaky AGM,but nevertheless voted to buy
Cultybraggan Army Camp through Land Reform legislation
See SOCIAL/ECONOMIC/POLITICAL Homepage, filed 23 Aug 07,
Here to View