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Sorry: should perhaps have said that it is …

Comment posted Castle Toward campaigner challenges Russell to defend Scottish Government decision by Dr Douglas McKenzie.

sorry: should perhaps have said that it is not a private company in the sense that it does not distribute profits to its shareholders (which is what people normally think of when they think of a private company).

Dr Douglas McKenzie also commented

  • I hope that “your verboseness” is not my new title! I am also hoping that was actually meant as a compliment (though it is also sadly true). I swallowed a dictionary when I was young.
  • Well that answers that question and so I withdraw my comments about their entitlement to sell. I would also say that ABC have a pretty robust stance on their rights regarding sale of any property that is under their control. Their position is that with the abolition of the feudal system (in regard to property) any conditions made prior to this date were also abolished. So, even if a school building had been donated to the Council for the purposes of education and only for that purpose, the Council believe that this stricture no longer applies.

    So I suspect that arguments along the lines that Castle Toward can only be used as an educational centre will find short shrift.

    Plenty of other things to focus our attention on though!

  • Dear Chris,
    The pizza was good thanks.

    FoI’s: I think the solution is not to take the initial no as an answer. Sometimes changing the question helps but always appeal if they say they cannot give you the information. A blanket ban on the information is unreasonable – and this is especially the case if the Council is making information available to one interested party but not another. ARSN didn’t win every appeal but we won most.

    To understand the accounts we could really do with seeing the management accounts rather than the summary accounts but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I could find out without having to pay for it. It is a question of knowing where to look.

    The accounts for the Castle Toward Trust are interesting as well. Where is the money in their accounts actually coming from? And what exactly is the relationship between the two organisations? (this seems very salient). I guess asking the Trust’s chairman would be the obvious place to start with this.

    I am also sceptical that ABC actually have ownership of the estate. It is not clear that they do not but equally hardly clear that they do. They seem to be blustering that they do in the hope that the other potential owners just back down (bit like GB and Rockall). Can ABC show that the title deeds for the estate actually passed from Glasgow to ABC at any point? Management seems to have been transferred but ownership is a different question. It will not have been the first time someone has sold an asset they actually do not own. (which also begs the question if ABC could in fact sell it to the community!). That needs independent adjudication.

    I am surprised that Actual believe they could raise the money to purchase the estate as a company limited by guarantee. On the current financials they do not have the cash flow to service a large debt (anyone know the likely purchase price?) so the only way they could persuade anyone else to fund the purchase is if they were intending to hive off pieces of the estate (perhaps persuading a developer to put up the initial purchase price). As a CLbG they cannot offer equity in the company so the only security they could offer would be bits of the estate itself. It is interesting that Actual were very bullish that they could afford to buy the estate in earlier negotiations.

    I cannot see how Actual owning the estate is in any way a superior condition than the community owning the estate.

    Another concern I have is that Dr Mason seemed to rule out a long term lease as a suitable solution despite this being the Trust/Actual’s previous position. I can only presume that this means that it is the physical asset that is important and not the right to freely operate. Again, I cannot see any reason for this unless there is an intention to lever the capital value of the asset.

    Lots of questions!

  • Bit bizarre to find “Simon” and myself in common cause and I think I’ll have to go for my tea very soon but a quick observation: profits at Actual were nothing like £300K per annum – this relates only to gross profit. Best actual profits were around £100K (which is still OK) but these are needed to cover the liabilities. For “Simon”‘s question as to where the profits are going, based on these figures I don’t think there are any “bankable” profits. I’m presuming that the operating costs are in fact mostly salaries and the salary line is the previous Director’s compensation line (which makes sense).

    I am also drawn to MP Mr Alan Reid’s comment about what control there is on Actual if they take ownership of the asset. Clyde and Forth Ports spring to mind as an analogy here. I think the community should view this as a very good question indeed (which might surprise Mr Reid as well!).

    There seems to be three scenarios developing here:

    1: Council sells state to best (private) bidder
    2: Council sells estate to Actual who then sell (presumably at a profit) bits of the estate they don’t need
    3: Council sells estate to community (who then can sell off bits if they feel it is appropriate, employ Actual etc).

    If I was in the community I would be reluctant to commit effort to securing 2 as it doesn’t seem that much better than 1. 3 is clearly the best option for the community IF they can find the leadership and finance to pull it off.

    Funnily enough I think we are in a situation here where “Simon”, “Newsroom” and the “Doc” are all in agreement. (Must be a first!).

    I am quite concerned by the apparent efforts to distance Actual from the Trust. Lack of clarity usually means someone has something to hide (and all the secret Council discussions on this issue doesn’t fill me with confidence either). Perhaps time for some intelligent FoI requests.

    But now: pizza! (home made of course!)

  • Having read the background, I have to say that this sounds quite murky and perhaps the Council are not the innocents I first believed them to be in this. I would be interested in “Simon”‘s take on this. And indeed I suggest “Newsroom” takes a look as well. Still not clear from this site the exact relationship between the Trust and Actual – it may be that the Trust was set up to buy the castle rather than there being an actual “ownership” arrangement between Actual and the Trust.

    Goes some way to explaining the peculiar finances of Actual.

Recent comments by Dr Douglas McKenzie

  • Rustle with Russell
    More utter rubbish from Lynda Henderson. Have you actually spoken to Bob Allen? Whoever told you the story sold you a pup and in your arrogance you cannot admit to be wrong so you make up this story that he was persuaded not to resign.

    Your position is completely untenable.

  • Russell back in the bathtub, now trying to sink Keith Brown’s boat
    I’m afraid you condemn yourself by your own words. I don’t think that anyone reading what you have written here and the language you have used would conclude anything other than that you have a deep dislike for Mr Russell and that dislike is leading you to basically lose all sense of either proportion or impartiality. It doesn’t matter how well (or otherwise) you know Mr Russell you are clearly exercised by your interpretation of his actions and it is leading you well beyond the pale in what I would consider fair comment.

    This vendetta against Mr Russell and the SNP is destroying FA’s credibility and I have to confess that I’m seriously considering whether or not to continue reading FA (which will cheer Malcolm up if nothing else). I for one am becoming increasingly disenchanted by the constant negativity and sheer nastiness that has crept into this blog. I say that with a lot more sorrow than anger because I think that FA could have been great and indeed still could but there has to be a degree of balance, civility and indeed humour. All we are getting here is bile and it is causing me heartburn.

  • Russell back in the bathtub, now trying to sink Keith Brown’s boat
    To be honest, this post clearly shows that you are speaking from your personal dislike of Mr Russell rather than an unbiased analysis of the man. Phrases such as “publicity hungry coward” are well beyond what is reasonable comment.
  • Russell back in the bathtub, now trying to sink Keith Brown’s boat
    You don’t seem to understand the separation of a MSP’s duty to his or her constituency and their responsibilities as a Government Minister.

    Yet again, this is another instance where a member of the Government can do no right: speak up and be condemned as “desperate” or stay silent and be accused of not serving your constituents’ interests.

    It is just as well that Mr Russell has broad shoulders!

  • Atlantic Islands Centre for Luing: biggest investment in island’s history
    Well done Luing – an inspiration to all of Argyll’s communities.

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