Former owner of Ulva hits out at ‘takeover’ of island

Ulva residents Rhuri Munro and his wife Rebecca and Barry George celebrate the buyout last week. Picture: Andy Buchanan/Getty Images
Ulva residents Rhuri Munro and his wife Rebecca and Barry George celebrate the buyout last week. Picture: Andy Buchanan/Getty Images
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The former owner of Ulva has launched a scathing attack on the SNP Government by questioning its tactics for backing the community buyout of the island.

Ulva transferred from 70 years of private ownership by the Howard family on Thursday to the North West Mull Community Woodland Company for £4.65 million, backed by an unprecedented Scottish Land Fund award of £4.415m.

Laird Jamie Howard was instructed by the Scottish Government to take the island off the market after a community buyout interest was lodged by the company.

Now the Howard family have released a statement wishing the remaining five island residents “prosperity and happiness” but criticising the publicly funded “takeover”.

The statement said: “The strong indication is that the driving impulse for this acquisition has been, and is, not so much for the welfare of Ulva and its resident community but more to satisfy the long held personal ambitions of a few relatively local individuals on the island of Mull; to benefit SNP (Scottish National Party) party politics and prejudices, and to feed media headlines. On multiple occasions, during the course of the acquisition procedure, the legislative guidelines (as published by this Scottish Government) were cast aside, with key, mandated deadlines mendaciously ignored by Ministers and Scottish civil servants in order to coincide with keynote Party speeches by the First Minister and to facilitate the acquisition of Ulva, regardless of the merits or otherwise, or the fiscal viability of the community plans. It entirely ignored its elected duty to be even-handed to all Scottish constituents.”

The statement goes on to criticise the community buyout company.” It said: “At every stage of the proceedings Jamie Howard was kept in the dark and stonewalled with no access or recourse to official information or assistance. Their dissemination of false and misleading information through the general media has been astonishing and disappointing.”

Argyll and Bute SNP MSP Michael Russell said: “I am sorry the family feel this way. I spent a pleasant night with them on the island some years ago and given the conversation that night it can have come as no surprise that I am an enthusiastic supporter of land reform.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “The SNP is committed to empowering communities through land reform.”