Sir Cameron Mackintosh: The impresario, the land dispute, and a boat in flames

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The Independent Online

A pleasure boat belonging to the theatre impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh has been destroyed in a fire that police are treating as suspicious.

The West End producer of musical hits including Cats and Les Misérables has been at the centre of a long-running dispute over land rights on his 14,000 acre Highland estate where the vessel caught fire.

This month, a Scottish Land Court found in the multi-millionaire's favour in a 13-year dispute over his plans to build holiday homes and a woodland project on 25 acres of land used for grazing by one of his elderly tenants on the vast Nevis estate east of Mallaig.

The Northern Constabulary confirmed that an investigation into the destruction of the Fastline Orkney on a jetty on Loch Morar was under way. The 19ft fiberglass vessel, valued at £30,000, was described as a "melted wreck" after the fire. Investigators said they were treating the blaze as suspicious.

It is the second time that Sir Cameron has been the victim of an unexplained fire on the estate, which he bought in 1994 after holidaying there as a child. The latest incident occurred close to the spot on the banks of the stunningly beautiful loch where his house was destroyed in a gas explosion 11 years ago.

Donald Cameron, the 87-year-old crofter who has been locked in a protracted legal battle with the musical producer, said he had no knowledge of the incident.

The former Commando veteran, whose family has farmed the disputed croft for more than century, said: "I know the boat well. He would use it himself now and again to go down Loch Morar. I may have been in dispute with the man, but I have not been burning his boat."

Despite upholding the application to go ahead with the new development, the Land Court also found no reason why Mr Cameron should not be allowed to exercise his right to buy his 700-acre croft holding.

The decision prompted Sir Cameron, who also has homes in London and Somerset, to call for reform of ancient crofting laws which he said in their current form allowed "a few self-interested crofters to frustrate the needs of local communities and properly preserve Scotland's outstandingly beautiful natural heritage".