LOCH LOMOND

Legal action looming over ‘poisoned’ beech trees on Loch Lomond island

Fair 7 Couple seek a quiet spot out among the islands of Loch Lomond

Trees proliferate on many Loch Lomond islands, including Inchtavannach.

Picture by Bill Heaney

Emma McKerry, of the Friends of Drumkinnon Woods, has drawn our attention to this report in The National newspaper which states that Scottish Natural Heritage is about to be sued for £150k over beech tree poisoning on a Loch Lomond island.

The report by Andrew Learmonth states that the action threatened by Luss Estates blames SNH for “deliberately poisoning and killing hundreds of ancient beech trees” on Inchtavannach, a well-known Loch Lomond beauty spot.

Luss Estates say Inchtavannach island, also known as Monk’s Isle, has been left looking like a “wasteland” because of the heritage body’s incompetence.

The government agency said they were “disappointed” by the landowners’ legal action.

It’s the latest twist in a fight dating back five years, when SNH entered into an agreement with the tenant on Inchtavannach to remove rhododendron, beech saplings and also gradually fell mature beech trees, which SNH at that time considered “non-native” over a five-year period.

Instead SNH poisoned hundreds of beech trees all at the same time.

At the time SNH admitted that they “didn’t appreciate the impact” injecting the stems of the trees would have on the landscape of the island.

New details uncovered by the estate through Freedom of Information legislation show that SNH used the controversial chemical herbicide, glyphosate to kill the trees.

Lawyers for the estate have given the SNH until the end of this week to reach a settlement, or they will launch legal action for damages.

They want the quango to cover the cost of felling dead trees that are still standing, removing felled timber to the mainland, lost timber value and management and legal costs, totalling £152,340. They are also insisting that SNH makes a public apology.

Simon Miller, Luss Estates chief executive, said the island has been the site of “wanton environmental vandalism”.

He added: “The local community was appalled when it saw what had been done to the ancient beech trees on the island, and the resulting blight on the landscape. It beggars belief that the body that is supposedly responsible for protecting our natural heritage left Inchtavannach looking like a wasteland, and appears to have used the controversial chemical glyphosate in the process.

“This is a tragedy that cannot be undone for generations. To make matters worse, after behaving so recklessly and admitting they did not appreciate the impact their work would have, Scottish Natural Heritage has dragged its feet for years when asked to do the bare minimum to start to put matters right.

“They have refused to reach an agreement over felling and removing all of the unsightly and dangerous dead trees they have left behind, which have now been there for several years. We also now have correspondence released under freedom of information laws which in our view makes it clear that the poisoning of the trees on Inchtavannach was unauthorised and that a licence was required.”

A 2016 report uncovered by the estate reveals that SNH “do not have funds available” to undertake further works on the island, adding: “Finances are tight and [it] will be a huge struggle to justify this again against other [Scottish Government] priorities.”

A SNH spokeswoman said the matter was with their solicitor.  She added: “Inchtavannach is internationally important for its oak woodland but the condition of the woodland has been affected by a lack of regeneration, a lack of dead wood and the spread of non-native plants.

“We have worked with Luss Estates and the tenant over several years on agreed management measures to improve the condition of the woodland. We are disappointed to have received this claim as our staff continue to work closely with Luss Estates to find workable solutions to tackling the problems with non-native trees on Inchtavannach.”

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