Glasgow & West Scotland

Scottish government intervenes in Castle Toward buyout

Castle Toward
Image caption The B-listed Baronial Mansion House forms part of the Castle Toward estate

The Scottish government has stepped in to try and help a troubled community buyout of an estate in Argyll.

The South Cowal Community Development Company aims to acquire the Castle Toward estate from Argyll and Bute Council using right-to-buy legislation.

The deadline to agree a buyout, however, expires at the weekend.

Ministers have now asked the council to reduce the asking price and extend the deadline. The council said a provision to extend already existed.

The South Cowal Community Development Company (SCCDC) hopes to develop the site and create jobs.

'National significance'

No price has been agreed but it has been awarded a £750,000 grant from the Scottish Land Fund towards the cost of the purchase.

Local MSP Mike Russell met Communities Secretary Alex Neil, whose responsibilities include local government, to discuss the matter.

Mr Russell said: "The Castle Toward situation is assuming national significance as it appears to illustrate some of the negative aspects of the policies of some local authorities regarding asset transfers to communities.

Image caption The ruins of the old Toward Castle are part of the estate

"I hope that Argyll and Bute will realise that they are now in the spotlight and resolve to do the area credit by taking a constructive and positive negotiating stance."

Mr Neil said: "I have seen evidence from the SCCDC that the Castle Toward Estate is now valued at £850,000, rather than the previous figure of £1.7m.

"In light of this I have today asked Argyll and Bute Council to consider its assessment of best consideration, and the offer on the table from SCCDC for the Castle Toward Estate.

"That offer is backed by the Scottish Land Fund and by investment from Highlands and Islands Enterprise once this asset is in community ownership."

Argyll and Bute Council said it would be willing to support the buyout and suggested some misleading information had been given out.

'Misleading information'

Council leader Dick Walsh said: "I look forward to hearing from Mr Neil and will be happy to reiterate to him the terms of the offer of support to SCCDC, originally made on 18 December and subsequently endorsed by the full council on 22 January.

"This clearly states that there is the option to extend the right-to-buy deadline beyond 31 January, should that be required.

"There is no need for any special request to do this because the council has already made sure that the option is there. Anyone who reads the decision in detail will see this."

Mr Walsh added: "The continued perpetuation of misleading information - whether for political gain or as a result of genuine misunderstanding of the facts - helps no one.

"I will be happy to clarify the situation with Mr Neil or, indeed, anyone who has questions and who wants to know the true facts about this."

The existing Mansion House on the estate was built in 1820 by Kirkman Finlay, former Lord Provost of Glasgow, as his family's country house.

The 143 acre estate was bought by the Corporation of Glasgow in the 1940s and was used as an educational facility.

Its ownership passed to Argyll and Bute Council in 1996 after local government reorganisation and the authority has been trying to sell the estate for the past few years.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites