A GIRVAN business’ Highland expansion has been put on hold due to a local row over land rights.
South Ayrshire Stalking, based just east of Old Dailly, won the lease to manage sporting rights on the Hebridean island of Raasay earlier this year after securing the winning bid in the latest Scottish Government tendering process.
But it emerged this week that the eight-year-old firm, which already manages land in the Angus Glens to the east, Mallaig area to the west, and locally in South Ayrshire and around Dumfries and Stranraer, has agreed to step back from the deal after accusations that Raasay would return to an absentee landlord experience under outside control.
Fears were raised by some islanders after it emerged South Ayrshire Stalking had out-bid Raasay Crofters’ Association, which had held the lease to manage sporting and fishing rights on the island since 1994.
After local concerns over the award of the lease to an outside body were highlighted in the media last month, South Ayrshire Stalking was approached by the Scottish Government to step back from proceedings until November, when the matter will now be decided. In the meantime, Raasay Crofters’ Association will retain control.
But South Ayrshire Stalking founding partner Chris Dalton said he was confident his company’s plans would still go ahead.
Mr Dalton said a number of crofters and islanders were, and remain, keen to work with the Carrick-based enterprise, which had plans to enhance the local economy by driving up numbers of deer on the island and introducing on-site venison butchery to avoid the outsourcing of services to the mainland.
“Much has been made of the fact that the crofters have lost the lease. There have been references to absentee landlords and it is as far from the truth as could be possible,” he said.
“I think everybody recognises our intentions are good. What is disappointing is that this has moved on to something beyond the sporting lease to government and land reform.”
But despite agreeing to postpone completion of the tendering process, Mr Dalton says he is still hopeful South Ayrshire Stalking will be invited to work with islanders – albeit in a different capacity.
“Somebody is going to have to be involved in training people on the island to manage a deer herd in accordance with government legislation,” he said. “We are still quite keen to do that but it’s early days.
“We have extended an invitation to the islanders, and if they feel we could help in any way we would be more than delighted to do so. The ball is squarely with the island community now.”