Stinky Mink

Mink were brought to the UK from America between the wars to be bred for their fur. Inevitably many escaped or were released by fur farmers following local opposition and a general decline in popularity of the fur trade. Soon a feral population was established, mostly dark brown with a white patch near the chin. These have continued to breed and thrive in many localities, including along the rivers and coast of West Scotland.

American Mink (Mustela vison)

Mink are mainly nocturnal and as a result are not often seen. But the damage that they are causing along the west coast is serious. One of the reasons for their success is that they frequently switch between prey, concentrating on whatever is abundant in any season or locality. Also they kill far more prey than they need to eat and because their prey has not co-evolved with them it often has no natural defence.

In some areas seabirds are the main victims. In built up areas it may be domestic fowl. But on many river systems the main victim has been the benign water vole.

Water voles are the largest species of British vole. They are also sometimes commonly known as the water rat because of a superficial similarity in appearance and habits to the brown rat.

Water voles have glossy brown or black fur and a blunt muzzle with small, black eyes. Their ears are almost hidden (unlike the ears of the brown rat), and they have slightly furry feet and tail. They are mostly active during the day, sitting on their hind feet and feeding on vegetation held in their front paws. When disturbed, they dive into the water with a characteristic ‘plop’ sound. When they swim, their head and back are visible.

Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius)

When threatened by mink, their natural escape mechanism is to enter the water and dive. However the mink simply follow them. Their next defence is to retreat into their burrows, but the smaller female and juvenile mink simply follow them and kill them.  A single mink feeding pups can exterminate water voles in a small river system.

Water voles have undergone one of the most serious declines of any British wild mammal during recent year. The post war intensification of agriculture caused the loss and degradation of habitat, but the most rapid period of decline was during the last decades of the 20th century as American mink spread. During the 90s, the population fell by almost 90 per cent.

Clearly if future generations are to hear a water vole “plop”, we need to eradicate mink and do something to mitigate environment loss and degradation as well as, where possible,  re-create and maintain suitable habitats. Landowners must be encouraged or forced to assist their survival with the support of the statutory and voluntary nature conservation agencies. Everyone needs to play their part.



Glencoe – the Trademark

When Highland Titles purchased Keil Hill in 2007, with the intention of creating a nature reserve that would become a popular tourist attraction, we sought to create a valuable brand which would require our protection. We settled on the name “Glencoe Wood” as the name of the woodland north of the Salachan burn. Our supporters were encouraged to adopt the style of Laird of Glencoe Wood, or Laird of Glencoe for short and we trademarked this name to protect it from being used by our business rivals.

In investing time and money in registering our trademarks, we have acted more cautiously than most other businesses in the Glencoe area, such as Glencoe Mountain, Glencoe Activities and Discover Glencoe, who have failed to register their trademarks.  But we are no different to several other business owners who have chosen to protect their “Glencoe” based branding. An example would be the Nevis Distillery, who own the Glencoe trademark in respect of their Glencoe malt whisky and the English clothing firm, Glenmuir Limited in respect of clothing sold under the “Glencoe” brand.

Over the last ten years we have invested heavily in the Glencoe area and created a popular tourist attraction which brings 10,000 visitors to the area every year and rising. Our visitors stay in local hotels and B&Bs, they drink in local pubs, shop in local shops, eat in local cafe’s and use other local facilities whilst here. Ultimately, like other local attractions, we bring money into the local economy which creates local jobs and supports other local businesses. We have investment plans but this of course depends upon us being able to protect our brand. Every business needs brand security which is the reason that the trademark office exists.

Which leads us to the 2015 registration of the name “Glencoe” by the National Trust for Scotland, Scotland’s largest conservation charity.  With this “dog in the manger”  trademark registration they intend to decide who does or does not get to use that word in their business branding. This appears to us to be disproportionate and unhelpful, particularly to the local region. Should Glencoe Mountain become “Rannoch Moor Mountain”, Glencoe Activities become “Ballachulish Activities” and Glencoe Wood have to be renamed “Salachan Burn Wood”? And what will our local marketing group, “Discover Glencoe” become?

We have not sought to disadvantage or threaten any business in the area and the same cannot unfortunately be said for the NTS, who appear not to like competition from a privately funded organisation. They have threatened our volunteers and threatened us. Now it appears that they do not like any organisation who dares to use “Glencoe” in their branding simply because the NTS are a major local landowner and they are not afraid to squander their members’ membership fees on Edinburgh lawyers. As Lord Lyon knows only too well, a legal letter scares most organisations into submission, and they only have out of date medieval laws to back up their threats. We eventually adopted the Arkell vs Pressdram response to successfully get Lord Lyon off our backs (it certainly cheered me up). We encourage Hillcrest to take a similar firm line with NTS. 

Which brings us to the threat of legal action made to Hilltrek Outdoor Clothing, a small Scottish business which has been employing Scots on Scottish Deeside for nearly 40 years. They have been selling their Glencoe Jacket for most of that time as can be proved by archived website copy on the “Internet Archive”. Their right to use the Glencoe brand for clothing predates the National Trust’s trademark application, showing it to be a legal sham.                                                                                                      
The lawyers’  letter states “Only goods and services with geographical links to Glencoe can use the name to protect the local community’s trade interests.”  However Highland Titles condemns the Trust’s bullying attempt to own the Glencoe brand and we feel that businesses with geographical links to the Glencoe region, should be left to protect their intellectual property themselves. The local Glencoe community does not need corporate bully boys offering protection with threats and menaces should we fail to kowtow to them.