During Portfolio Questions on Rural Affairs and the Environment in the Scottish Parliament on 13 March 2013, Lewis Macdonald asked the Government about the latest situation on Raasay (see previous posts 23 Feb, 26 Feb, 2 March and 4 March). I post this for information but feel obliged to make two observations.
1. Mr Wheelhouse confirms that he is responsible for the management of Scottish Ministers’ estates which begs all sorts of questions as to why it took a constitutency MSP to alert him to the situation on Raasay.
2. Absent among the three options that the Minister states are out for consultation, is the continuation of the existing successful sporting lease to Raasay Crofters’ Association. I predict further trouble.
Lewis Macdonald (North East Scotland) (Lab):
2. To ask the Scottish Government which minister has portfolio responsibility for the rural payments and inspections division. (S4O-01906)
The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Paul Wheelhouse): Some of the functions of the Scottish Government’s rural payments and inspections division are the direct responsibility of Mr Lochhead, as Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment. Other functions are my responsibility, as Minister for Environment and Climate Change, including the management of the Scottish ministers’ estates and divisional functions that contribute to the delivery of our climate change targets.
Lewis Macdonald: Given the minister’s responsibility for the management of estates, can he tell us when the decision was made to put the lease for sporting rights on Raasay out to tender; when the decision was made to issue in November 2011 the notice to quit to Raasay Crofters Association; and how and when ministers were made aware of each of those decisions?
Paul Wheelhouse: There were a number of questions there. The first related to the lease. It was a 50-year lease, which changed hands in about 1995 to the Raasay Crofters Association. It was always known that the lease would end around November 2012, and the notice to quit was served in line with the expectations in the lease.
On my involvement in the decision, I first became aware of the issue when Dave Thompson, the constituency member, raised it with me, followed closely thereafter by Jamie McGrigor. The decision to award a contract to South Ayrshire Stalking was taken on 8 January, and I became aware of it on 14 January.
Dave Thompson (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP): I have written to all 112 residents on the electoral roll on Raasay to ask their views on community ownership. Will the minister support community ownership if that is what the people of Raasay want and, if so, how can he help?
Paul Wheelhouse: I welcome Dave Thompson’s engagement with the Raasay community in his capacity as the local MSP to hear views on the community buy-out of Raasay. We fully support community buy-outs. We welcome any interest from the community in a buy-out and stand ready to advise on the procedures and processes involved. The Scottish Government is preparing a consultation of our own on the future of the Raasay sporting rights and we are committed to helping the local community to maximise the benefits that those rights can offer its economy.
We will extend the previous lease until 1 March 2014 to allow time for a consultation to be held with the whole Raasay community on options for the future. The three options for consultation are: a non-competitive long-term lease of up to 175 years granted to the local community; a new lease advertised in the market, which would include weighting and assessment to maximise community benefit; and a community buy-out of Raasay, which would include the sporting rights.