Landowner is still being paid to graze the slopes
By Nick Kempe of Parkswatch Scotland
Following my post (see here) on how sheep and cattle were still grazing the slopes of Beinn Luibhean, despite the landslips, former MSP Andy Wightman sent me information about the ownership of the land from his website Who Owns Scotland (see here):
This information, obtained from the Register of Sasines, is not yet online at the Registers of Scotland – for £12 a year it is well worth individuals subscribing to the Who Owns Scotland data base.
The Registers also don’t yet show the land above on Beinn Luibhean which Forest and Land Scotland (FLS) appear to have bought from Glen Croe farm for £600k in 2017-18 (see here for FLS register of acquisitions).
The land is, however, shown on Who Owns Scotland:
The information from Andy Wightman about the ownership of Glen Croe Farm enabled me to search the UK Defra Rural Payments data base (see here). That shows two payments to Messrs Glen Croe Farm for the years 2020 and 2021:
The total comes to over £13k, £4,744.94 of which was for areas facing natural constraints – landslips one wonders? – and £2,668.24 of which was for “greening practices”. Had that money been compensation for ending all grazing on the landslip prone slopes it might have made sense. Instead, the Scottish Government’s rural payments division appears to have paid the landowner to continue to graze the landslip prone slopes on Glen Croe Farm and saw no contradiction between its actions and those of Transport Scotland who were spending a fortune on engineering works to prevent further landslips both above and below the A83:
The payments continued but at a much reduced level in 2021:
The Rural Payments database does not show what was paid in 2022 but today I received the information in response to a Freedom of Information request to the Scottish Government:
That confirms the Scottish Government is still subsidising the owners of the Glen Croe Farm to graze the cattle I saw on the slopes of Beinn Luibhean at the end of April:
This is a classic example of unjoined up government, even if the subsidy is chicken feed compared to the almost £1 million paid out by Transport Scotland to Glen Croe Farm (see here) for the occasional use of the Old Military Road below the A83.
What needs to happen
If the cost of FLS acquiring 736 hectares on Beinn Luibhean was £600k, as suggested by their acquisitions register, then the cost of acquiring the remaining 94 ha owned by Glen Croe farm should have been less than that, even though it includes the better ground. Instead of compulsorily acquiring the land in the public interest, however, the Scottish Government continues to hand money willy nilly to the apparent owner, Diane Davidson-Kinghorn. That needs to stop and the rest of Glen Croe farm to be bought sooner rather than let.
The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority was set up in large part to enable more co-ordinated management of the countryside in the interests of conservation, recreation and a sustainable economy. Unfortunately, like the Scottish Government and other Public Authorities it is completely in thrall to private landowning interests and Diane Davidson-Kinghorn appears to be the same Diane Davidson Kinghorn who was once on the LLTNPA Board (as recorded in the Luss-Arden Community Action Plan 2008-11)!
Until and unless the Scottish Government is prepared to remove those interests from its board and the LLTNPA is allowed to tackle them, all the aspirations for restoring nature and addressing the climate emergency contained in its draft National Park Partnership Plan launched two weeks ago (see here) will come to naught. If the LLTNPA cannot speak out and tackle the continued overgrazing of the slopes at the Rest and Be Thankful, where large sums of public money are being spent, it won’t tackle these anywhere.
Here we go around the groundhog day, deja vu, square one Maypole yet again
In spite of what many people are saying, I doubt if tree planting will prevent further landslips at the Rest and Be Thankful. These occur down the watercourses, not the slope as a whole, during extreme rainfall events.
Grazed slopes such as these produce tightly grazed vegetation which is relatively resistant to erosion. Additionally, landslides through forested slopes can be observed in Scotland, for example the ones down the east side of Loch Lomond in the mid 1980s, again down the watercourses.
Tree planting would be a waste of taxpayers’ money in my view! The only long-term solution is to move the road to the south side of the glen.