UPDATE 19 APRIL 2020

This blog, together with a subsequent one published on 24 February 2016, were the subject of defamation proceedings brought by Wildcat Haven Enterprises CIC against myself in a citation from the Court of Session served on me on 21 March 2017. Since 30 March 2017, following legal advice, the blogs have been password protected. The case (Wildcat Haven Enterprises CIC vs. Andy Wightman A111/17) was heard by Lord Clark at the Court of Session from 29 October 2019 – 8 November 2019. A Decision by Lord Clark was published on 11 March 2020 which rejected all of the pleas of the pursuer in what was a comprehensive victory for me. As a matter of law therefore neither of these two blogs are defamatory. The Pursuer issued a statement to the media on 11 March stating that “we will certainly appeal the decision”. However, the 28 day period in which to appeal has now expired and no appeal has been lodged. I am pleased therefore to now remove the password protection and enable them to be read as they were published subject to one caveat.

Lord Clark concluded that in the blogs (and a few tweets which were also complained of) I had made four untrue statements. Contrary to claims by my detractors, none of these was a lie. Indeed Lord Clark made clear that I was a “credible and reliable witness” who “gave his evidence in an honest, straightforward and coherent manner”. Lord Clark stated that “I accept his evidence about what he knew and did not know at the time of the various publications” and that “the suggestion he made statements that he knew were untrue simply has no proper basis.” [Lord Clark at 73]. I have thus edited the two blogs with a footnote marked in red to indicate the relevant untruths and why they arose.

Finally, what was revealed of this case in Lord Clark’s decision was a fraction of what was revealed in Court. What was revealed in Court was a fraction of the evidence assembled in the 1494 Productions (written documents lodged as evidence) lodged in the Court (59 by the Pursuer and 1435 by Defender). And what was revealed in the Productions was a fraction of what I have learned in the course of extensive preparatory research over the past 3 years about the activities of Highland Titles and Wildcat Haven Enterprises CIC. I will be publishing a detailed blog revealing what really went on over the past three years. Given the litigous nature of both parties, I will, of course, have these blogs legalled before publication.

UPDATE ENDS

If you plan to set up a fundraising campaign for an environmental project, it is a good idea to think carefully about who is involved and what techniques you plan to use.

Wildcat Haven is a project designed to protect the Scottish Wildcat by preventing hybridisation with feral cats and providing a network of reserves to manage as wildcat habitat. (1)

Yesterday, it launched its campaign. Sponsorship has been provided by Volkswagen, a company responsible for polluting the environment with nitrous oxide emissions that it attempted to conceal through one of the biggest corporate frauds of recent decades. The other sponsor is our old friend Highland Titles, a company based in Alderney that is wholly owned by a charitable trust (Highland Titles Charitable Trust for Scotland) registered in Guernsey. See my blog of February for further information on their operations.

Some time ago, Highland Titles Ltd. blocked my IP address but it came as something of a surprise to discover that I have also been blocked from Wildcat Haven’s website despite only having just seen it. Despite this, I have access via a proxy IP in Germany.

Highland Titles appear to have established a very close relationship with Wildcat Haven which operates via Wildcat Haven CIC (Community Interest Company) and Wildcat Haven Enterprises CIC. The Registered Address of both is in Cornwall. One of the defining features of a Community Interest Company is the asset lock – provision that in the event of winding up, the assets must transfer to a nominated body that is a community interest company, charity or Scottish charity; or a body established outside Great Britain that is equivalent to any of those persons.(2)

In the case of Wildcat Haven CIC, the nominated body is a community-based company, Sunart Community Company. The money, however, is being raised by Wildcat Haven Enterprises CIC and the nominated body here is Highland Titles Charitable Trust for Scotland. Thus, in the event of Wildcat Haven Enterprises CIC being wound up, its assets will be taken over by Highland Titles Charitable Trust for Scotland in Guernsey.

Wildcat Haven Enterprises CIC was incorporated on 30 June 2015 with two Directors, Mrs Emily O’Donoghue and Mr Douglas Wilson. Wilson is a Director of Highland Titles Ltd (1) and a Trustee of Highland Titles Charitable Trust for Scotland. (2)

Wildcat Haven has adopted Highland Title’s dubious methods of selling small souvenir plots of land and claiming that the purchaser is the owner (see extensive faq to this effect). This claim was comprehensively debunked in February this year by legal blogger loveandgarbage. If there remains any doubt, here is the content of a letter written by Professor George Gretton, Lord President Reid Professor of Law at Edinburgh University to the Daily Record newspaper.

Dear Mr Ferguson,

Under Scots law, ownership of land passes from seller to buyer by registration in the Land Register of Scotland. No registration? Then no transfer. This is currently set out at section 50 of the Land Registration etc (Scotland) Act 2012. (The previous law was essentially the same.)

(“Souvenir plot” is a term defined in section 22 of the 2012 Act.)

Therefore, if a souvenir plot is sold, registration is required, if the buyer is to acquire ownership of the plot.

But the Land Register does not accept souvenir plots: this rule is set out at section 22 of the 2012 Act. (The previous law was essentially the same.)

So if a company sells a souvenir plot, the sale cannot be completed. The buyer of the plot does not become owner of the plot. Ownership of such plots remains with the company.

Whether buyers of souvenir plots are informed that the seller will retain ownership is something I have no information on.

Sincerely, George L Gretton

Lord President Reid Professor of Law University of Edinburgh
School of Law
Old College
South Bridge
Edinburgh 
EH8 9YL

Professor Gretton should know – he wrote the Land Registration (Scotland) Act 2012. See also, a recent academic paper by Jill Robbie and Malcolm Combe which reviews the law in this area.

The plots being offered for sale by Wildcat Haven cost from £30 to £250 for one square foot of land which purchasers are assured, gives them a “personal right to a souvenir plot of land in Wildernesse Wood and the opportunity to change their name to Lord or Lady Wildernesse. Wildernesse Wood is described as “part of the first Wildcat Haven”. “We are asking you to help us by actually buying part of the land we plan to conserve.”, the website claims.

So where is Wildernesse Wood? The Wildcat Haven website does not say, but from this promotional video, it is clear that it is a plot of land above Loch Loyne on the A87 between Invergarry and Glen Cluanie.

In the video, Dr Paul O’Donoghue is filmed standing in the wood. He claims that “Every square foot of land we buy has a direct positive impact on the Scottish wildcat. By supporting this project, you’re helping save the Scottish wildcat step by step.”

There are two problems with this claim.

First of all, this land is, in fact owned by Highland Titles Ltd. who are already selling souvenir plots in a “nature reserve” they have named Bumblebee Haven where you can purchase plots ranging from 10 square feet (£49.99) to 1000 square feet (£499.99) and call yourself Lord or Lady Glencoe (even though the land is 50 miles north of Glencoe).

The land was acquired in February 2014 and the title can be seen here and the plan here  The land is 75ha in extent which, if all sold in 10 square foot plots would generate £40.35 million in sales revenue paid to a company in Alderney in the Channel Islands.

But the more fundamental problem is that the Wildcat Haven project is in Ardnamurchan and Morven – see map below.

The land that supporters are being invited to acquire is not only already owned by a company in Alderney and being sold plot by plot for bumblebees, this “first wildcat haven” is 60 miles to the north of Ardnamurchan and Morven and well outside the area being promoted for wildcat conservation.

I offer this information in the spirit of consumer advice to anyone considering taking up the offer to become the owner of a square foot of land to create a Wildcat Haven.

AN ADDENDUM

As an addendum to the Highland Titles blog in February, I contacted the Chief Minister of Guernsey Jonathan Le Tocq to ask whether it would be possible to examine copies of Annual Returns and Accounts of both Highland Titles Ltd., registered in Alderney and Highland Titles Charitable Trust for Scotland, registered in Guernsey. As I argued then,

Revenue is paid into a company registered in Alderney but as no accounts are published, it is impossible to be sure. The sole share is held by Wilson and McGregor as Trustees for the Guernsey charity. Under the law of Guernsey, no charity is obliged to provide accounts for public inspection and it need only file accounts under certain circumstances.

Thus nobody knows if in fact the charity is in receipt of any funds whatsoever. As the sole shareholder it is not entitled to have any of the revenues of Highland Titles Ltd. transferred to it. These revenues may well be paid out by the Alderney company as management fees or any manner of other payments to third parties.”

Mr Le Tocq informed me that under Guernsey law, the charity is not required to submit any financial returns and access to the Alderney company records would only be available to law enforcement agencies if there was evidence of criminal conduct.

Thus, because this land is owned in an offshore tax haven, we are unable to obtain any information about what happens to the money generated by selling off souvenir plots.

(1) There is some disagreement over the appropriate strategy to be adopted to save the Scottish wildcat. An official project, Scottish Wildcat Action is being run by 20 organisatiosn with the support of the Scottish Government and Forestry Commission among others. Those behind the Wildcat Haven project, however, have criticised the official programme.

(2) The Community Interest Company Regulations 2005

UPDATE 1500hrs 30 Sep 2015

The following response was emailed to me by Emily O’Donoghue and posted on the Wildcat Haven website here. The response is also contained in a comment below this post together with my follow up questions.

Dear Andy,

Just hoped to respond briefly to your primary concerns about the Wildcat Haven project.

Highland Titles Charitable Trust is currently listed as our nominated body, it is acting as a placeholder whilst we agree with a few local organisations in the West Highlands who would be best placed to become the ongoing nominated body. Of course, you’ll have to wait and see on this one, but we have already sent in paperwork replacing HT with another organisation, I’m sure records will be updated shortly.

Our website repeatedly states that the plots being sold are souvenir plots and “a bit of fun”, our own FAQ outlines that registration of souvenir plots is legally impossible so this seems little revelation.

In terms of location, the current Haven fieldwork area is in West Lochaber (Ardnamurchan, Morvern and Sunart).  We have been highly successful in neutering feral cats in this area (we have neutered 50 in the last 7 months alone, leaving close to 500 square miles free of intact feral or pet cats) and are now ready to expand. You are right to highlight that the land in Loch Loyne is north of the current Haven area, however that is the very point, we are expanding northwards and the the long term goal has always been to cover the entire Highlands west of the Great Glen. Loch Loyne is ideally situated being to the east of the Knoydart peninsula and near to a major land bridge to the rest of the Highlands, which needs to be protected from feral cat migration. Wildcat monitoring activities are already underway in the area, we are also looking to start operations in Sutherland which you will note is also well north of the current Haven zone, as well as looking to buy land within the current fieldwork area.

Part of the Loch Loyne site has been gifted to us by Highland Titles and no plots in the area provided to us have been previously sold, so it was free for them to pass on, allowing us to offer actual physical plots to customers immediately, rather than just a promise of buying land in future.

Wildcat Haven has been around protecting wildcats since 2008, our team comes with considerable scientific and conservation credibility, we are currently the only effort to protect wildcats in the wild rather than place them in captivity and our work has been commended and supported by organisations such as Humane Society International for its exceptional standards of animal welfare and delivery of humane feral cat control, as well as receiving considerable coverage across national media recording our work with feral cats, wildcats, local schools and communities for many years.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank you for providing us with reduced rate access to the Who Owns Scotland database around 2008/2009 when the project was starting up and needed to start communicating with landowners; you helped us get where we are today, thanks a lot for your support and promotion of the Wildcat Haven project.

Emily O’Donoghue,
Director,
Wildcat Haven

I replied as follows.

Emily, 

Thanks for your response. 

1. It may be a bit of fun but you are asking folk to help you by “actually buying part of the land we plan to conserve” You need to be much clearer that people who spend £100 do not become owners of the land.

2. You say that part of the Loch Loyne site has been gifted to you. Can you tell me when this transaction took place and when it was submitted to the Registers of Scotland for recording? Can you advise the extent and location of this land?

3. Are there any wildcats on the Loch Loyne land?

4. Why is my IP address blocked from viewing your website?

5. What is the role of Highland Titles in your fundraising? Do they receive any payment? Do they receive any commission on each plot sold?

Thank you.

UPDATE FOOTNOTE 19 APRIL 2020

(1) Douglas Wilson in fact was not a Director of WHE at the time of publication of this Blog. He was a Director of Wildcat Enterprises CIC from 6 June 2015 to 21 August 2015 (when he resigned) and again from 21 October 2015 until 17 February 2016 when he again resigned. Guernesy does not have a very transparent, publicly accessible registry of companies being one of the most secretive jurisdictions in the world. Thius, in order to obtain information about when a Director was appointed or resigned, one has to contact the Registry with a specific request. During my research for this blog, I thus phoned the Registry to find out if Douglas Wilson was still a Director of WHE and was informed that he was. I thus made the claim I did in good faith relying upon the only official source able to provide the information.

(2) Douglas Wilson was in fact not a Director of Highland Titles Charitable Trust for Scotland at the time of the publication of this Blog. Unlike the Guernsey Registry of Companies (see footnote (1) above), the Registry of Charities is publicly available online. I checked the entry for HTCTS during research for the Blog and noted that Douglas Wilson was recorded as a Director of HTCTS. I therefore relied upon this official source in good faith in writing the Blog. In fact, Douglas WIlson had resigned as a Director of HTCTS on 6 July 2015. This was not reported in the Guernsey Registry of charities until an update was published on 20 June 2016.

51 Comments

  1. Am extremely grateful to you for this Andy,as am sure many might have been tempted to contribute to this ***** scheme,purely out of desire to help a threatened species and help Scotland’ s wildlife.It is truly sickening that such a loathsome enterprise is operating in this way

    • I am sympathetic to your view, but I suggest you remove the words ‘***** ****’ as they are defamatory and you could end up in court.

    • I completely agree with you it is sickening to think of people using other people’s love for a beautiful endangered animal to spiv some money. It also angers me that our laws are so weak for crimes against life. In this particular case I just urge you to keep reading, keep watching how this story evolves. I’m counting on us all to make sure in this case that the truth will out.

      And when we know for sure who’s been lying I’ll be happy to join you in throwing everything at them the law allows.

  2. Mary Rose Liverani

    It’s totally appalling. Imagine sitting down and hatching this scam. And on such a scale. It’s a pity they can’t be gaoled.

    • sadly, Mary Rose, it’s what goes on in that sickening loathsome enterprise, currently operated as ‘modern’ Scotland

  3. If only we had a real national park in the Cairngorms as a haven instead of the ersatz ‘Concretegorms’ version, where 1500 new houses are deemed normal

  4. Anyone wishing to help save the wildcat should have a look at the website of the ‘official’ project , Scottish Wildcat Action, which, as Andy says above, is a partnership of 20 organisations working to an agreed Action Plan. There are opportunities to get involved in practical work as a volunteer in the six priority areas identified for action. http://www.scottishwildcataction.org/

    • Ro is absolutely correct. Scottish Wildcat Action is the only credible partnership involved in wildcat conservation at present. The scammers from Highland Titles should simply be ignored.

      • “Why the Scottish wildcat is threatened by its saviour”, Guardian, Nov 22, 2014

        You sure about that ?

  5. Another brilliant expose Andy, you’re a national treasure!
    Anent “…the charity is not required to submit any financial returns and access to the Alderney company records would only be available to law enforcement agencies if there was evidence of criminal conduct.”

  6. Fascinating and disturbing, particularly for charities who are struggling right now to bring income in for much needed activities. Goes further to say that OSCR should have capacity to act on any Charity that operates in Scotland not just established here .

  7. I happen to be a Director of Sunart Community Company, the body named as being nominated by Wildcat Haven CIC.

    To the best of my knowledge – and I consider myself a fairly diligent director – we have had no contact with Wildcat Haven CIC at any point.

    I will be alerting the Board to this and expressing my concerns, as Sunart Community Company is a completely legitimate – and transparent – community-controlled charity working to benefit the local community.

    • That’s good to hear. I had a moment of dismay when I read that you were in some way involved. Relieved to hear you’re not.

      However if they (Wildcat Haven) are claiming some legal ‘relationship’ with you I wonder where that places them withing the CIC Regs.Highly dubious methinks.

      Do the local landowners and homeowner on Ardnamurchan know they are being promoted as being part of a ‘reserve’ and people offered ‘plots’ of land (which are ‘implied’ to be there) for £30?

      Finally I wonder what view the University of Chester has of a Senior Lecturer using the University’s (good) name as part of what appears to be a money-making scam?

    • I look forward to hearing more from you soon. If a bunch of fraudsters is using the survival of the wildcat as a cover story for a scam they deserve everything that can be thrown at them. I have been in contact with Steve Piper who is closely involved with the Ardnamurchan haven for over two years and I find it hard to believe he is one. I emailed him last night when I read this article and posted to their Facebook page.

      I am waiting for a response.

  8. Hi Andy – can you explain why this practice is not illegal under trades description/consumer law?
    Is the de facto lack of ownership for purchasers buried in their small print somewhere? If not why can this “company” not be taken to court for fraud?
    Cheers
    Steve

    • It may well be illegal – I do recall some deliberations to this effect in the past.

      • In their FAQ’s here https://www.wildcathaven.com/faq/ under the heading:

        “Can you tell me about the law governing souvenir land sales in Scotland?”

        Wildcat Haven say:

        “But unlike in England, when Scotland updated its Land Registration law (Land Registration etc. (Scotland) Act 2012) Scotland chose to leave its law on the sale of souvenir land substantially unchanged. Although a right of ownership in land (in the sense of a right that is enforceable against third parties) can traditionally only be obtained by registration in the Land Register or by recording a deed in the Register of Sasines as appropriate, under Scottish law these small plots of land can be sold without the expense of registration which might otherwise make this uneconomical.”

        But you probably already read that!

  9. Perhaps Volkswagon’s legal division would like to hear of this report ?!….

  10. Well done Andy for bringing this information to public’attention.

  11. Has anyone asked Volkswagen for a comment on their involvement in this obvious scam? Surely they can spare a few moments from their other activities to say something about this.

  12. I saw the innocent-looking article about Widcat Haven in the National this morning before I saw your blog Andy. Maybe the National will follow up tomorrow?

  13. Brilliant expose! and so quick of the mark. Am sharing this amongst all of our Scottish groups.
    Wish The National were a bit more diligent when running articles: http://www.thenational.scot/news/spread-of-feline-version-of-hivaids-is-another-nail-in-the-coffin-for-scottish-wildcat-expert-warns.7810
    Could Wildcat Haven be the acceptable face of Highland Titles – because their name is currently mud and are looking for a new cloak to wear? I could see this happening the adverts started appearing on their site then the company began multiple domain names that were all the same site, see: http://www.scottishwildcats.co.uk/index.html
    http://www.scottishwildcatgallery.com/Welcome.html
    The Highland Tiger: https://www.facebook.com/TheHighlandTiger

    Then they designed their own tartan, finally selling full blown selling pretend plots of land all the design looks like it’s been done by Highland Titles.

    It’s another emotive seller, people will just give money, but what are they giving money for “but we’re conserving land in Scotland” “but we’re saving the wildcat”. Highland Titles used to say their wood was a Golden Eagle sanctuary with nesting eagles (Golden Eagles do not nest in woodland). It feels like the same thing – well we put up the sign saying it is, not our fault that there are no Scottish Wildcats.

    Anyway thank you! and really appreciate you not letting this one drop.

    • Let’s see. There’s been work going on with local and volunteer support since 2008 under the name of the Ardnamurchan wildcat haven. I’ve emailed someone there (see my comment below) as soon as I read all this yesterday evening and I’m waiting to see a response. I’m hoping they’re as shocked as I am, or that there is some misunderstanding somewhere, and the work of the wildcat haven can go on. It is sickening to think of the survival of the wildcat used as a cover for a scam, but I want to see who’s been scammed before we judge, especially if it means the end of the haven, an initiative a lot of us have stongly believed in and supported. Once we know who’s done the scamming I’ll be happy to throw everything we can at them.

      • I’m sure the original Wildcat outfit is legitimate. I imagine what’s happened here is that Highland Titles, in an effort to detoxify their brand, have offered a helping hand, and the Wildcat folk didn’t know who they were getting in to bed with (Volkswagen, in the light of recent events, was also an unfortunate partner – although hardly to the same extent as Highland Titles).

        • I’m not sure about anything until I see a response from the haven. I do know a lot of people have committed real time and energy and support to it. Their story about the Volkswagen was simply that they were offered a vehicle capable of getting around the haven area ~ this was before Volkswagen were revealed as comically incompetent criminal masterminds ~ and they took it. Hard to see how the wildcat haven figured as part of Volkswagen’s dastardly scheme, and in my opinion putting it in this article was just a low punch. I really want you to be right about the more serious matter here, but I’m waiting to hear the haven’s side of it before I judge. The paramount issue is the wildcat, and no, I’m not content to see that left in the hands of SNH and its wildcat action plan. I’m not sure about their motives either regarding the wildcat or a number of other matters.

  14. I know nothing of Wildcat Haven, but folk might be interested to know of the involvement of Highland Titles MD Peter Bevis (and Douglas Wilson) in a ‘copycat website’ scam much reported in the press a while back (although Bevis was not named at the time). Details and evidence, including trademark documents signed by Bevis as Director of the Seychelles operating company, here:

    http://theanatomyofascam.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/applyehic-org/

  15. I’m a crofter on Harris. I’ve been in touch with Steve Piper since early 2013, when he was head of the Scottish Wildcat Association and I became interested in the possibility of bring the wildcat to Harris & Lewis, where almost everyone local I’ve asked about it to this day supports the idea, for the sake of the wildcat and for the sake of an island plagued with rats and rabbits with currently no land predator. Steve Piper subsequently disbanded the Scottish Wildcat Association to concentrate on the Ardnamurchan haven. As far as I can tell from here, the haven is a real tbing, and I’ve never had any reason to doubt Steve’s sincerity in his desire to save the wildcat. On the other hand the wildcat action plan led by SNH has appeared prickly and difficult to deal with, as I’ve found them before, and it’s a stretch for me to suddenly see SNH as the hero of the piece as this comment thread seems to be doing. This article comes as a bombshell to me, and I urgently want to get at the truth. For the sake of the wildcat ~ I once saw one on a mountaintop, quite close, and the memory of those five or so seconds is burned in my brain and glows as brightly thirty years later. It was about ten years after that I accompanied Ron Greer and the Loch Garry tree group at the autumn planting, another vivid memory. The wildcat, and our uplands, and the truth about the Atdnamurchan haven are all I care about here. Let’s start by finding out the truth. I’m copying my comments here and the link to this article to Steve Piper.

  16. oh dear seems like my old pal mr bevis has diversified from trees to wildlife ! a while back it was a so called alliance with the Woodland Trust , now it’s bumble bees and wildcats , whatever next ?

  17. The issue is not where “Wildernesse Wood” is (the website explicitly says it’s in Glen Loyne and I suspect the sort of people who aspire to call themselves Lord Wildernesse neither know nor care where that is in relation to Ardnamurchan or anywhere else) or whether it’s possible for Highland Titles also to be selling plots there branded as “Bumblebee Haven”.

    Many charities sell tat to raise money so the issue is really whether any of the money from these plot sales is actually going towards wild cat conservation? Related to that is whether Wildcat Haven has any real existence?

    There are hints of a lack of credibility. Confusing Morvern with Moidart is one. More significantly, WH doesn’t appear to be registered with OSCR. But The Scottish Wildcat Association is – http://www.oscr.org.uk/search-oscr/charity-details?number=SC040397 . Their website – http://www.scottishwildcats.co.uk/about.html – says:-

    “This was the website for the Scottish Wildcat Association which wound down in 2013 handing over their efforts to the Wildcat Haven Project”.

    In the “Shop” section of the SWA website, there is the following:-

    “Scottish Land and Gifts
    Highland Titles
    £VARIOUS, please leave a donation at the checkout!
    All donations passed to Wildcat Haven!
    Highland Titles offer micro plots of land in the Highlands to anyone who would like to call themselves a Laird, and collect donations for wildcats from their customers! The land is managed by Highland Titles as a nature reserve for Scottish wildlife, based nearby the Wildcat Haven project in the West Highlands; there’s a range of other gifts available through their online store as well. You can donate when you buy any product from Highland Titles.”

    Which (added to the opacity of the Guernsey connection Andy has smoked out) suggests nothing is passed from the price HT’s plots to wild cat conservation, only additional donations which purchasers happen to make. Which they are unlikely to do as most will imagine that the price of their plot is their contribution. I couldn’t find anything on the WH website which said “All proceeds to …”.

    • I haven’t been to Ardnamurchan myself, but I’ve been following the news from there since Steve Piper, head of the Scottish Wildcat Association, wound it up and told me about the haven.

      If it’s all a charade it’s a very elaborate one. The BBC has visited it three times and filmed three pieces for the television in the last year.

      I’ve asked, and I’m waiting to see what the haven has to say about this.

  18. Dear Andy,

    Just hoped to respond briefly to your primary concerns about the Wildcat Haven project.

    Highland Titles Charitable Trust is currently listed as our nominated body, it is acting as a placeholder whilst we agree with a few local organisations in the West Highlands who would be best placed to become the ongoing nominated body. Of course, you’ll have to wait and see on this one, but we have already sent in paperwork replacing HT with another organisation, I’m sure records will be updated shortly.

    Our website repeatedly states that the plots being sold are souvenir plots and “a bit of fun”, our own FAQ outlines that registration of souvenir plots is legally impossible so this seems little revelation.

    In terms of location, the current Haven fieldwork area is in West Lochaber (Ardnamurchan, Morvern and Sunart). We have been highly successful in neutering feral cats in this area (we have neutered 50 in the last 7 months alone, leaving close to 500 square miles free of intact feral or pet cats) and are now ready to expand. You are right to highlight that the land in Loch Loyne is north of the current Haven area, however that is the very point, we are expanding northwards and the the long term goal has always been to cover the entire Highlands west of the Great Glen. Loch Loyne is ideally situated being to the east of the Knoydart peninsula and near to a major land bridge to the rest of the Highlands, which needs to be protected from feral cat migration. Wildcat monitoring activities are already underway in the area, we are also looking to start operations in Sutherland which you will note is also well north of the current Haven zone, as well as looking to buy land within the current fieldwork area.

    Part of the Loch Loyne site has been gifted to us by Highland Titles and no plots in the area provided to us have been previously sold, so it was free for them to pass on, allowing us to offer actual physical plots to customers immediately, rather than just a promise of buying land in future.

    Wildcat Haven has been around protecting wildcats since 2008, our team comes with considerable scientific and conservation credibility, we are currently the only effort to protect wildcats in the wild rather than place them in captivity and our work has been commended and supported by organisations such as Humane Society International for its exceptional standards of animal welfare and delivery of humane feral cat control, as well as receiving considerable coverage across national media recording our work with feral cats, wildcats, local schools and communities for many years.

    We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank you for providing us with reduced rate access to the Who Owns Scotland database around 2008/2009 when the project was starting up and needed to start communicating with landowners; you helped us get where we are today, thanks a lot for your support and promotion of the Wildcat Haven project.

    Emily O’Donoghue,
    Director,
    Wildcat Haven

    • Emily,

      Thanks for your response.

      1. It may be a bit of fun but you are asking folk to help you by “actually buying part of the land we plan to conserve” You need to be much clearer that people who spend £100 do not become owners of the land.

      2. You say that part of the Loch Loyne site has been gifted to you. Can you tell me when this transaction took place and when it was submitted to the Registers of Scotland for recording? Can you advise the extent and location of this land?

      3. Are there any wildcats on the Loch Loyne land?

      4. Why is my IP address blocked from viewing your website?

      5. What is the role of Highland Titles in your fundraising? Do they receive any payment? Do they receive any commission on each plot sold?

      Thank you.

      • I’m really glad to see this discussion evolving, and I will leave the other four questions to Emily, but to ask whether there are wildcats in a particular place is a bit silly, and I’m really hoping one of the things that can come out of this is for you to take a lead in raising awareness of wildcats, and in so doing get to know in detail what the haven is about and confirm for all the rest of us that they are doing what they say they are doing, and it makes sense. If you do reach a place where you can say that it will be something of great significance in our relationship with the land. It is connected with everything Mark Avery is trying to lead concerning the protection of raptors and the ending of the disgusting practice of driven grouse shooting, everything Ron Greer has been trying to do and say for forty years, everything contained in the article you tweeted today concerning the shortcomings of the Holyrood version of land reform. The Ardnamurchan wildcat haven proclaims that it is all about working in the land with local people without waiting for and generally deferring to the conservation establishment ~ the same cosy club Chris Packham just got in bother for talking about. The whole issue of Scottish freedom is an irrelevance if we cannot get out from under the hierarchy that controls the land and what happens on it ~ “erode the mountains of inertia” as a recent article here by Ron and Derek put it. The wildcat haven claims to be trying to do that. I cannot think of anything you could do more worthwhile than investigate it in depth and tell us all what you find. After all, you’ve already caused some people to denounce the haven. It seems only fair that you find out for sure whether that was right or wrong. Good luck.

        • Steve,

          “you to take a lead in raising awareness of wildcats, and in so doing get to know in detail what the haven is about and confirm for all the rest of us that they are doing what they say they are doing, and it makes sense”

          I am not a conservation biologist. I don’t know if it makes sense or not. I do know that there is a Scottish Wildcat Action project run by 20 partner agencies including the Scottish Government. But nothing I have written in this blog is about whether the Wildcat Haven project makes sense or not. The only point I raise in relation to this matter is to question why the land that Wildlife Haven claim to own is so far from the havens that they claim to have established. Now it transpires that Wildcat Haven only own part of this wood and I have asked for confirmation of which part.

          Rather, the blog is about the marketing effort that has been launched in partnership with Highland Titles.

  19. “Why the Scottish Wildcat is threatened by its saviour”, Guardian, Nov 22, 2014

    For some reason I can’t copy and paste the link into this box. That will take you to an article by Kevin McKenna on the official wildcat action plan. He wasn’t impressed.

    Or have we suddenly decided SNH and Holyrood are paragons of enlightenment where it comes to the land ? I haven’t, and I don’t think Ron Greer would buy into that one. I’m not a biologist either, and neither are my neighbours out here on Harris, but we know SNH talk some crap.

    You’ve asked some good questions, and I really look forward to us all seeing the answers. You’ve also slung some mud, such as with the Volkswagen jibe. The haven announced weeks ago that they’d been offered a vehicle, before Volkswagen were mired in their inept scandal. They were surprised and pleased, and accepted the vehicle. Why not ? Or so they claim … if you think they were conspiring in Volkswagen’s criminal master plan, say so. Otherwise it’s just a cheap shot, part of an article which has caused people in these comments to call the entire haven “an obvious scam”.

    I see someone is trying to get Volkswagen to say something about their support for the haven. Good.

    I think you’re well capable of understanding the methodology of the haven, and comparing it with what is intended by the wildcat action plan, and also finding out why the two are not cooperating. For what it’s worth, I’ve tried several times to ask on the official plan’s Saveourwildcats Facebook page why they don’t try to work with the haven, or at least consider it, or at least tell us why not .. I was told in response the other day my posts had been deleted and if I said any more about the haven I’d be banned from their page. Apparently I’m not the only one who’s had this experience. We were not trying to attack or insult or troll them, or say anything negative about any of them .. like you I’m not claiming expertise. I do think there’s something fundamental at stake here connected with rewilding, reforestation, regeneration, our personal connection with the land, and national self-determination and everything your blog is about. Look into it as far as you want, and if you want look no further, but there’s a story alright. And if it’s true what was said in an earlier comment here, that some spivs you see involved with the haven’s fundraising managed in the past to get close to the Woodland Trust, it’s time these agencies who are all on the same side – our side – got together.

    Just one thing I know, and so do you if it’s true what Emily says here, that you helped out the haven when it was getting started in 2008. The haven was working on its action plan long before SNH got their strategy going, which as far as I can tell amounts to capturing the last wildcats in the wild, breeding them in captivity, and releasing them at some future time into areas where they will have undertaken the same trapping and neutering of feral cats the haven has already been doing. This in spite of the fact the survival rate for wildcats bred in captivity and released this way is dire, and organisations such as IUCN have said its not a good idea except in the most extreme circumstances.

    The haven asserts that there is another way. Someone should be capable of assessing whether there is a chance they are right.

    Would you let the haven, or someone you nominate, write about the whole wildcat strategy / strategies on your blog ? I’d read it.

    When we fall out, our oppressors giggle.

  20. Slightly ot, but as it is to do with conservation and Mark avery was mentioned – here is his new book on the grouse shooting industry – recommended ! ; http://www.amazon.co.uk/Inglorious-Conflict-Uplands-Mark-Avery/dp/1472917413

  21. Dear Emily O’Donoghue,

    As I see it, your current problem isn’t whether Wildcat Haven is or is not actually a legitimate worthwhile organisation. It is that you have freely chosen to closely associate yourself with the Bevis mob. It is also that you have chosen to adopt the thoroughly disreputable practice of selling small pieces of land which buyers cannot ever own and indicate that this qualifies the buyer to call themselves a Laird.

    You may claim it’s just a bit of fun, but why then have you have plagiiarised an article by Malcolm Combe and Jill Robbie without even attribution, and why are you using a completely debunked document written by Mitchells solicitors claiming the land is ” legally transferred to you”, when there is overwhelming legal opinion that this is not the case.

    Your address is given as a PO Box in Spean Bridge, where the Bevis family have a property. Would you trust a company who gives a PO Box address? Instantly rings alarm bells for me.

    Apparently you have as a director Dougles Wilson of Highland Titles,, who by his own admission was involved in the website applyehic.org.

    You fail to mention how much of each plot purchased actually goes towards the cause.

    You apparently claim the plots are on the actual sanctuary ground when they are not.

    I have other concerns but let’s get to the point.

    I don’t have the knowledge to determine if your wildcat programme is of much real value, even if you explained it in great detail I still wouldn’t be able to decide, I just don’t have the required knowledge. I have to take that on trust.

    At the moment in my opinion you are behaving in a deceptive and untrustworthy manner. You have also closely associated yourself with the Bevis mob and Highland Titles and have adopted their very questionable business model to raise funds.

    If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, quacks like a duck, and it’s friends are ducks ….. you see the point?

    it is impossible for me to know whether your wildcat efforts are of much real value or not, Your recent behaviour indicates to me that I cannot place any trust in your claims.

    Why should I, or anybody else in similar position, even consider supporting you?

  22. Andy you are once,again to be congratulated on what is a piece of excellent research on ‘Highand Titles’ and their association with Wildcat Haven. I was up at Highland Titles land recently at Glen Duror and was applied. My disgust was however not just about the way they were conducting business as regards protecting Scotland’s natural heritage, it was also to do with the way they are implicitly using a conception of the natural heritage to position themselves. And this is as relevant as regards the concept of the Scottish Wildcat, as the way in which it is managed.

    To clarify, and I have researchers and published on it,the idea that there is a genetically pure wildcati n Scotland today is controversial to say the least – Court cases as well as academic research has shown that there is no ‘pure’ wildcard in Scotland. Hybridization with domestic cats, anecdotally brought in by the Romans, has brought an end to their existence.

    I supposes I’m trying to say here is that there is no divide between so called objective (or good) science and the politics of conservation – it’s all politics. And to help understand the practices of Higland Titles(and perhaps land reform per second) we need to understand this. Protecting the so called wildcat is not a scientific practice but is ostensibly political. And this is no offence to.anyone or body who is working (scientifically) to protect the wildcat; they to (through personal conversation, albeit one with whiskey) are all too aware that it’s political.

    • I don’t think you would be saying that if you’d ever been in the presence of a wildcat in the wild. The DNA issue is one more controversy in this issue, and 100% purity in anything is a rare phenomenon in the real world, but as someone else in this thread has said, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, follows in detail the behavioural patterns of a duck, and has the effect on the wider environment of a duck … it’s not only Wildcat Haven, it’s also Oxford University, National Trust Scotland, John Muir Trust, SNH, the Scottish government, a number of ecologists and biologists and plenty of other people who are putting an awful lot of energy into something they apparently believe exists.

      I’m as pissed off as anyone commenting here that this fundraising mishmash has obscured what really matters. I want to see it sorted out, and if the Wildcat Haven have got involved in something dodgy I want them to say so. Because for now I have faith in some of the people who have been working on it for years, on next to no money, when it appeared hardly anyone cared about the wildcat.

      The wildcat is not only alive, its continuing survival and return to a healthy population is integral to the healthy future of Scotland’s highlands and forests. The people who want the uplands of the British Isles run to suit the interests of the gun would love to have us believe the wildcat is, sadly, no more … just as they wanted us to believe trees would, sadly, no longer grow on our mountains and moorlands, and that they and only they are the true guardians of upland conservation.

      I want the truth.

      • The criticisms of the Bevis mob are backed by solid evidence which you can view for yourself. The blog ‘theanatomyofascam’ would have been lawyered out of existence months ago were it otherwise. Question for you: You’re clearly passionate about the project. Assuming the partnership with Highland Titles survives the backlash, does it matter to you who the Wildcat folk are working with if it helps to fund the project?

        • You mean would I dabble in the illegal ivory trade to save the wildcat ? I guess not.

          We could go on an on and around and around, but I think it’s time to take Emily O’Donoghue’s advice and wait and see, including as to how the relationship between the haven and Highland Titles evolves. The haven was active in all weathers for years when very few people paid any attention or cared, long before any involvement with Highland Titles. Emily tells us they will be here long after. And if the haven’s profile is higher now, and their actions in future will be under closer scrutiny, I take them at their word that they have no problem with that. And if one result is more people becoming more aware of the wildcat, this episode will have been worthwhile.

          For now, I am willing to bet no nefarious conspiracy with the criminal masterminds Volkswagen will come to light.

          • It would be unduly limiting if every cause only accepted help or support from ‘perfect’ donors (although a co-directorship, as in this instance, is a fairly wholehearted embrace). I was interested in your opinion.

            I believe we will see results from this partnership since it is likely Highland Titles entered into it with a view to offsetting some of their negative PR.

            But without greater financial transparency, we have no idea what is happening with supporters’ money – how much of the £30 purchase price goes on conservation, and where does the rest go? This is along the lines of Andy’s question #5… which has not received an answer.

            There are specific reasons for concern (beyond those already discussed). Highland Titles are very full of their achievements, but to date the only figure we have for spending is one they gave in a radio interview (£160,000 over 2 years, they claimed), while they grossed several million over the same period (their own figures reveal 100,000 plot sales in the 19 months between July 2013 and February 2015; £30 is the base price, the average price is significantly higher). They operate these days under the banner of a ‘Charitable Trust’, but unlike any UK charity, we can’t see their accounts.

    • I would agree that there is now no such thing as a pure strain of ‘felis silvestris grampia’ and that may well apply to all the lower classifications of felis silvestris.

      That said there is no reason not to try and preserve what we have left but it needs to be done in an ethical manner; and that includes choosing sponsors carefully and also the way they raise funds.

      Pandering to peoples vanity or praying on their gullibility is not something I am comfortable with.

  23. the fact of the matter is ,if it wasn’t wildcats it would be green toed salamanders or some other endangered creature that they would use as a selling tool. there is no such thing as a green toed salamander,well at least i think. i have had deaings with HT in the past ,blocked from their facebook just for correcting a historical fact. they used trees in Keil to sell plots and it was suggested that if different people owned the land, it would be impossible to build on ,that is except their ” welcome building ” of course ! then there’s the bumble bees above invergarry ,check it out on google maps ,seems you can put your plots on the map as lord whitshisname or lady naebreeks! high time this sort of things stopped …..it’s giving Scotland a bad name !!!