BBC Scotland’s Business and Economy Editor, Douglas Fraser, conducted a fascinating interview with John Glen, Chief Executive of the Buccleuch Group yesterday (online report here & audio file here). There is much to chew over but two aspects in particular stood out.
1. Business Tax
“These estates are businesses” Mr Glen remarks at one point. Now I have a high regard for Douglas Fraser as a journalist but I wonder if the BBC will ever follow up such an assertion by asking “so why do they not pay business rates like all other businesses?”
Of course on Buccleuch Estate there are workspaces, sawmills and a variety of other business premises and they are liable for business rates (to be paid by the occupier who is often not the owner). But the estate as a business – the 270,000 acres – pays nothing. Why in Scotland in 2012 do landowners still get away with not having to pay their fair share of property taxes?
2. Who Owns Buccleuch Estates?
On the Buccleuch Group website is the following statement.
“Buccleuch Group companies embrace the corporate business interests of the Buccleuch Family. The parent company is the Buccleuch Estates Limited, which is chaired by Duke Richard, the 10th Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, KBE.”
Buccleuch Estates Ltd. is in fact a parent company for a range of businesses in Germany, Luxembourg, Russia, Germany and the UK. But “embracing the corporate business interests of the Buccleuch Family” rather suggests that the company is owned by the Duke of Buccleuch and family.
The fact is, however, that the shares of Buccleuch Estates Ltd. are wholly owned by Anderson Strathern Nominees Ltd., a company with a total paid-up share value of £4, whose shareholders are four Edinburgh lawyers, whose total assets amount to £4 and which has not traded since its incorporation in May 1992.
So how, exactly are the “corporate business interests of the family” represented in the Buccleuch Group? That’s another question which the BBC might one day ask.
I think I know the answer. I learnt it years ago from one of Buccleuch’s advisors who is now safely retired. One day, when I have probed further, I may be in a position to reveal it.