The Inverness Courier today reported that the Qatari royal family has bought the 544 acre Eileen Aigas & Ruttle Wood estate in Inverness-shire. it was sold to a company called GoldenRod Ltd. registered in Jersey in September 2015 for £7 million.

Goldenrod Ltd. is owned by OH Securities Ltd. and R&H Investments Ltd. both registered in Jersey. Those companies are both owned by R&H Trust Co. (Jersey) Ltd. which itself is owned by OH Securities Ltd. and R&H Investments Ltd. plus a third – Woodbourne Nominees Ltd. which is also owned by the company (R&H Trust Co. (Jersey) Ltd.) which owns it.

This opaque ownership structure means that it is impossible to verify who the beneficial owner of the company is although the same opaque structure was used to acquire the Cluny Estate in Inverness-shire last year – see previous blog on topic.

Whether such secrecy is a satisfactory state of affairs is in sharp focus right now as the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill is scrutinised at Stage 2 in the Scottish Parliament and amendments will be tabled to either make such ownership structures illegal or to require that the beneficial ownership is revealed. Whether those amendments succeed or not will be down to MSPs to decide. See here and here for background.

37 Comments

  1. For my part – I’ve emailed my current MSP and also all the list MSPs for this region, asking their personal and party position on having land registered in such a way as to show the beneficial owner – making it clear that I need this information before casting my vote(s) in the upcoming election.

  2. Interestingly this is next door to the Aigas Community Forest and both properties have woodland on the Ancient Woodland Inventory. I work on a project offering advice on management of Plantations on Ancient Woodland sites (PAWS) and have completed a survey for the Aigas Community Woodland as well as numerous estates around Inverness. I would love to survey Eileen Aigas so if anyone has any contacts for the new owners let me know.

  3. Andy, what is the status of the crown dependencies like the Isle of Man, Jersey, etc.? Are they part of the EU or not? Are they even part of the UK? For instance, for defence, tax, pensions, law, representation, or health care purposes? I’m assuming they are part of the UK for military and defence purposes (they fall under the Crown after all) but not sure about the rest. I mean there’s no MP for the Isle of Ma, is there? But do they get UK pensions, etc.? Always wondered.

    • Jersey is a Crown Dependency. The official position and background paper is available here. though treated as part of the EU for trade purposes it is not part of the Uk and is not a member state.

  4. Don’t know if it’s of any interest but should be possible to find out which company (offshore firm) is operating the trust. The registered directors of the company will likely be from that firm e.g. Viberts, Aberdeen Asset, etc. Does it matter though? Maybe I’m missing something.

    • Good luck with your endeavours in that regard. Jersey does not publish any information on Directorships though these companies appear to be corporate trustees ultimately controlled by a company called Rawlinson & Hunter who specialise in “wealth management”.

      • Sorry, I think that’s all I was suggesting i.e. that you can find out which Jersey offices are acting for the company that manages the trust. So, if it’s already known that Rawlinson & Hunter are the firm acting, there’s not much more could be got out unless you knew someone who works in their offices and persuaded them to look at the trust deed 😉

  5. Come on Scotland !!! .
    They are running rings round you again .

  6. It’s crap like this that makes a strong Land Bill essential. Why Jersey if this is not just a tax avoidance scheme? Wonder how much public moneys they receive, Europe farm subsidies, conservation grants, rate relief etc all land ownership in Scotland should be totally transparent

    • Exactly and I for one am sick of it

    • If Qatar is the correct answer then I rather doubt that they care a (dried) fig about tax avoidance or evasion! I think that they probably like to be private. Many quite ordinary people like their personal affairs to be private too.
      The question, here, surely, is whether the Scottish Parliament determines that land ownership is sufficiently important to our nation to require some violation of owners’ privacy. For me, I think it does.

  7. I think its time to take all land ownership back into the lands of the people and be done with all the crap on tax avoidance and not Scots owning parts of our country.

    • Scots only. Nice. Shall I sell my house now then? Transparency of ownership is a laudable aim and supported by many landowners as well. “It’s time to take landownership back in the hands of the people” is, with respect, guff. By “take” do you mean confiscate or do you mean buy? The former isn’t achievable and the latter not affordable. Far too much general demand for radical this or radical that which means nothing. Better to focus on real and achievable objectives which can be sensibly delivered without great upheaval and which will provide the most cost effective benefit.

      • As an example from the other side of the world a relative was telling me the New Zealand government has stopped any further sales of land to the Chinese who were building up a significant holding in New Zealand. Lots of reasons for wanting a foothold in another country not all of them innocent ones.

  8. I have no grievance with the Qatari Royal Family, however, let’s take this to the furthest end that we can. 100% of all the available land in Scotland is owned by foriegn absentee land owners. What then?

    I don’t think we have a choice here but to compulsorily purchase say, 25% of the landowners holdings as a starting point.

    The other way would to be to adopt a land tax but that would have to wait until independence. That would put a stop to those owning and benefiting from large tracts of land where they get CAP payments for producing “0.25 grams of grouse” per acre.

    • David
      The vast majority of land and property, particularly by value, in Scotland will be owned by “Scots” or UK citizens to be more precise. The first of your concerns is therefore not likely to occur.
      If you did pursue the 25% acquisition policy which 25% from whom and at what cost. 25% of land (lets exclude housing and other property) is still worth many billions – probably 10’s of billions. So whats the societal gain from this kind of resource commitment?
      I am yet to see any type of land tax proposal for Scotland that has a detailed analysis of the costs and benefits associated with it’s introduction. Most of the value would come from urban areas, which is where all the value is, so large tracts of unproductive mountain would be a bit of side show anyway. And you don’t get a CAP payment for grouse management only for farming activity – and there are tests for this.

  9. There is something fundamentally wrong when basic house purchase is beyond the financial means of so many people, and incredibly expensive for everyone else.
    Land prices are only one of the factors contributing to this but land is a resource that should be used for the benefit of those living here, and not just sold off to those who have the wealth (accrued by fair means or foul) to buy it. I believe the amount of land any one individual or organisation can own should be limited.
    While I agree that Andrew Howard’s approach is far more pragmatic, I would suggest that if there is a will there is a way, and areas like land ownership, our legal system and our education system are all in need of radical change.

  10. Is there any chance you could add a social media button type link onto you very informative articles. These SCANDALS need to be shared amongst as wide an audience as possible & obviously the msm & especially the comically named STV will not consider this as worthy of broadcast. It would be a waste of my time mentioning bbc Alba reasons for leaving this item on the net.

    • If I have time I will try and work out how to do that but the link for any blog can always be copied and pasted to any social media outlet.

    • Sam
      Setting aside the transparency point where we are not in disagreement what is the scandal here. So a wealthy party bought a huge house. You may not like the wealthy party or the idea of huge houses but it’s there and this seems the most sustainable use for it in the widest sense. What else might be done with it which does not place a burden on the taxpayer?

  11. 7 million pounds for 544 rough acres ! is this a typo ? if not what the heck is on this land even with a really posh house . Are they going to build an extra large helipad or a new airport for their visits? I wonder who sold it. This sounds very dodgy and just shows how important that the transparency of land ownership is made an important part of the land reform act.

    • I heard a dodgy rumour via a London based girlfriend of a relative that the new owners of Cluny had decided not to ever sleep in the house, because security would be too difficult, but instead had bought another house near Inverness, which had a wall. The plan was said to be that they’d chopper in thence, have their day’s grouse or stalking, then fly safely back to the walled enclosure. I thought that this was a crazy idea.

      Now I wonder! is Aigas’ 455 acres walled?

      • Eilean Aigas is an island in the River Beauty approached via a private bridge. So not a walled enclosure but a deep fast flowing river!

        • The island is also 326 feet at it’s highest point and the house is at 228 feet, so does not have much danger of getting flooded. It’s the river Beauly and the house is Eileanaigus house. It looks very secure.

  12. Here we go again with Andrew shouting from his high horse supporting the 432 .
    If land in Scotland keeps on being bought by the few , 50% of Scotland will be owned by even less people .
    Is this right for Scotland , Andrew ? .

    • James
      In actual fact the concentration of ownership in Scotland will be falling not rising in broad terms. Concerns over overseas ownership seem to me to be completely overblown as is the whole 432 thing. It’s a sexy slogan but meaningless without being contextualised for land quality, use potential etc.

  13. Andrew

    Good to know that you own your house , and it is not a tied house on the estate you are employed with . This must give you great confidence and security for you and your family .

    All the houses on the country estate I live on belong to the landlord .

  14. I would not allow the Qatar or any other middle east country residents to purchase land in the UK let alone Scotland. You go to their countries and try to buy land……

  15. Andrew Howard

    The ” unproductive mountain ” .
    Is it not correct that with a few” introduced ” sheep. , this mountain as well as grouse moors all of a sudden becomes very productive financially through European payments .

  16. Andrew Howard

    Is it not correct that grouse moors , which now have some sheep , will now qualify for large financial payments ?.

  17. Where is Andrew ?.