Islay Estates yesterday issued the following statement in response to BBC media coverage of the introduction of the Land Reform Bill to the Scottish Parliament.
Alastair Margadale, chairman of Islay Estates Company, said: ‘When the BBC said they were coming to Islay to report on the land reform issue, I was happy to participate in the hope of reflecting some of the many positive developments on the island, such as the partnership with Argyll and Bute Council to provide affordable housing on Islay, the progress of Bridgend Hotel, the employment opportunities we provide for people on the island and the way that we have worked with Islay High School to train pupils in rural skills.
‘Instead, the result was a poor misrepresentation of the situation on the island. It is absolutely right that land reform campaigners make their voice heard as part of the debate but it is extremely disappointing that certain situations are portrayed inaccurately. For example, the BBC were taken to a disused cottage which a land reformer implied was an estate property that could be sold rather than be left in a neglected state. The property in question was sold by the estate to an individual 20 years ago; the next door building has also been sold and is currently being renovated; four adjacent development plots were sold to local buyers five years ago – all to meet local demand.
‘The BBC also referred to an estate decision to decline a farm tenancy to an individual despite being aware of the full facts surrounding that decision. The reason the tenancy was declined was the estate firmly believed the individual in question did not possess the suitable skills to farm the land and animal welfare considerations formed part of that decision.
‘The suggestion broadcast by the BBC that part of the farm was to be used for housing is untrue. The previously rundown farm has been re-let to a new tenant who, working in partnership with the estate, has improved the condition of the land considerably. This is exactly the type of sustainable land use that the land reform agenda intends to achieve for the benefit of the wider community.
‘I made the point to the BBC that every penny made by Islay Estates is re-invested in the island. There are many constructive things happening on the island. No one should shrink from an informed land reform debate but surely the interests of everyone would be better served if arguments and media reporting was based on real facts, rather that misinformation, spin and a ritual desire to paint private landowners in a negative light.’
Islay Estates Company will be raising the above issues with the BBC.