Mackintosh hopes crofters will take estate off his hands

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The Independent Online

But he has not fared so well with the 15,000-acre estate he bought in the Highlands of Scotland. The businessman has become so alarmed by the prospects of the estate that he has owned for the past 10 years that he wishes to sell almost all of it off.

Representatives of the local community will meet in Mallaig today to discuss a buyout, but there is a possible headache for Sir Cameron; they may not want to take on the estate. Sir Cameron, who is proud of his Scottish ancestry, made the decision to sell up to prevent the estate's possible break-up.

The problem stems from a feud between crofters on the Nevis Estate at North Morar, near Mallaig, and the entrepreneur. Like many lairds before him Sir Cameron has fallen out with crofters who claim he is interfering with their way of life.

He unveiled plans for a new area of woodland that would have removed 25 acres of rough ground from crofting use. Donald Cameron, 81, the crofter affected, objected and won a court ruling preventing Sir Cameron from planting trees there.

Another crofter, Alastair Mackay, his son, Alex, and a cousin, Duncan McDonnell, then made use of long-standing legislation to launch a bid to buy their crofts and wrestle control of the land from Sir Cameron. If they succeed, they will remove a 4,200-acre chunk of land from the middle of the 14,000-acre estate, leaving Sir Cameron's luxurious stone lodge, which can only be reached by boat or helicopter, isolated.

Under current legislation individual crofters have the right to buy their crofts at about 15 times their annual rent. Sir Cameron believes this would threaten the sustainability of the area and is hoping instead to convince locals to buy 14,000 acres of his land on the remote Knoydart peninsula, using money from the Scottish Land Fund. Sir Cameron would retain 1,500 acres around his retreat.

"The Nevis Estate is threatened with a break-up by one crofting family controlling multiple crofts, taking advantage of outdated crofting legislation and declaring their intention to buy nearly one-third of its area, 4,200 acres, from the heart of the estate without giving any reason," said Sir Cameron in an open letter to the community. "My family... have decided that we would much prefer that the majority of the estate was taken over by the whole community, so that it can continue to be managed for the good of everyone in the area."

However,Councillor Charles King, who represents Mallaig and Small Isles on Highland Council, said: "I don't think there will be an appetite in the community to go for a community land purchase. Sir Cameron has been a good friend to the area and I think most people want things to remain as they are."

Andrew Aitchison of Strutt & Parker, which manages the estate, said it was well known that Sir Cameron had injected a huge amount of time and financial resources into the area including building a community swimming pool, village hall, retirement home and clinic in Mallaig.