Jarndyce v Jarndyce

Dave Carpenter, Condé Nast Collection
Dave Carpenter, Condé Nast Collection

Some of my readers will be aware of a civil case for defamation that is proceeding slowly through the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Pursuer – Wildcat Haven Enterprises (WHE)

Defender Andy Wightman MSP

Neither I nor any organisation linked to me has any legal interest in the case – though because it involves one of the many good causes to which Highland Titles has given money, it is certainly a matter of some personal interest.  In a nutshell, Mr Wightman has been accused by WHE of making stuff up and maliciously publishing it so as to cause massive damage to WHE.  Mr Wightman has said, in so many words, that perhaps he did, but he is a very important person and everyone loves him, so you can hardly blame him for having a bit of fun at the wildcat’s expense.  Besides, everyone was laughing and he just couldn’t help himself. Or,  in the more precise words of his lawyers, he claims that his comments were “fair comment on matters of public interest, and/or covered by qualified privilege”.  Interestingly he is NOT claiming that the nasty things he said were true (veritas), only that for some reason he should have been allowed to say what he said and WHE just has to suck it up and put up with being damaged.  Good luck with that…..  However, I don’t need to take sides because at some stage Mr W will have to stop prevaricating and go into court to face justice.  Then everyone will know the truth.

Para 7 of Mr Wightman's "Form of letter of request" addressed to me.
Para 7 of Mr Wightman’s “Form of letter of request” addressed to me.

So, you might ask, why have I written this blog post?  Well out of the blue, Mr Wightman’s expensive Edinburgh lawyers, Gillespie MacAndrew LLP, have demanded that I answer a series of questions. Whilst I am not involved with the case I have no objection to answering questions. But in the spirit of open justice, I thought that as well as swearing a formal affidavit, I would publish my answers here for all to read – just for anyone else who wanted to know but did not have the cash to pay expensive lawyers to do the asking.

QUESTIONS posed by Gillespie MacAndrew LLP

  1. i) the nature and content of contracts or dispositions entered into or granted by the pursuer with or to “buyers” of such plots of land;

Highland Titles print and ship all the documents on behalf of WHE, so I am able to answer that.  All customers are sent a rather grand disposition on parchment – setting out who they are, who is selling the land (WHE) and which bit of land they have bought.  For £30 Mr Wightman -or you – can get your very own copy posted to you in a sumptuous gift pack ready for Christmas.  Frankly they don’t need to ask me. They need to prise open their wallets, visit www.wildcathaven.com and make a loved one a very special gift this Christmas.

  1. ii) the location(s) of plots of land ’’sold” or being offered for sale by the pursuer;
Map showing land gifted to WHE in August 2015.

Paul and Emily O’Donoghue and Helen McGregor and myself met with Duncan Thompson (a partner in the firm of J & H Mitchell, Solicitors) at his offices in Pitlochry on Wednesday July 8th, 2015 to confirm that we could gift a parcel of land to WHE without any consideration (i.e. free, gratis and for nothing – zilch, zippo, nothing coming back). He confirmed that we could do that and so a few weeks later we selected an area well away from the few plots we had already offered for sale to Highland Titles customers and instructed J & H Mitchell to convey 4Ha from our Mountainview nature reserve in Glen Loyne to WHE as a gift Gift of land
Paitna Green Wildcat Haven_106794
.

iii)           the numbers of plots ’’sold’’ by the pursuer and the prices obtained by the pursuer in respect thereof;

This is actually a question for WHE. Highland Titles print and assemble all packs for WHE, and then ship them, entirely at our own expense. We also provide free customer support. We know that following Mr Wightman’s first blog the numbers of packs we were shipping took a nosedive.  Doubtless WHE have provided precise details to Gillespie MacAndrew LLP.

  1. iv) the use to which moneys obtained by the pursuer in selling or purporting to sell such plots has been put;

Not Known.  Again this is not a sensible question to ask me.  All funds raised by WHE were taken directly by them and clearly applied to the work of Wildcat Haven. Certainly no money has come my way (or to any other organisation or person on my behalf) , nor should it. WHE is charitable in its objects and with Highland Titles covering most of the outgoings, the income derived from the sale of plots was able to fund the excellent work done by Wildcat Haven. We donate many tens of thousands of pounds annually to a wide range of charities and good causes mainly in Scotland (but a few in Alderney), from Rotary to Trees for Life. 

  1. v) the timing, nature and content of any communications, contract or other arrangement with Highland Titles Ltd and/or Highland Titles Charitable Trust regarding the ”sale” of such plots and the use of the proceeds thereof;

There has never been any form of communication, contract or other arrangement between Wildcat Haven or Wildcat Haven Enterprises – or anyone associated with any wildcat related organisation and myself, Highland Titles, the Highland Titles Charitable Trust for Scotland or anyone I know or have ever known or their children or any organisation any of them have ever been involved with – regarding the ”sale” of such plots and the use of the proceeds thereof.  Mr W seems to not understand the nature of charity. You give without wanting any return except that good things, like saving the Scottish Wildcat, can happen. 

As stated above HT prepares and ships all orders entirely at its own expense. This is not a contractual obligation, but we have verbally offered to do it for the forseeable future.  Neither the Trust, HT, myself or anyone else has an arrangement in place to recover any expenses from any source. Packs are prepared and shipped completely Pro Bono.  

  1. vi) the ownership of the land from which the said plots were ”sold’’, and the reason(s) (other than referable to the sale of individual plots) for any change in such ownership; and

The land sold is owned by WHE. It was gifted to them by HT in July 2015.

vii)         the nature of any offices held by Mr Douglas Wilson with the pursuer and/or Highland Titles Ltd and/or Highland Titles Charitable Trust, and the periods during which such offices were held by him.

Early in the life of WHE (09664321 – Incorporated on 30 June 2015), Douglas Wilson served as a director of both WHE and Highland Titles and as a trustee of the Highland Titles Charitable Trust for Scotland. However HT planned not only to give WHE land but money too. Because there was a potential conflict of interest, Douglas decided to resign from these positions, which he did as soon as we were able to find suitable replacements. He stepped down as a Trustee of the HTCTS on July 6, 2015 and as a Director of Highland Titles on August 21, 2015. He is a sad loss to the Highland Titles operation as he is an Scottish entrepreneur and businessman with a passion for Scotland and wildlife coupled with experience and competence that would make him a huge asset to any organisation.  Our loss is the Scottish Wildcat’s gain. 

Christmas 2017


Christmas has always been a great time of year for me. My wife and younger daughter have Christmas birthdays, so we have always made a great deal of this holiday season. Hogmanay too. So I am delighted to run an organisation that is dedicated to helping everyone give something special to someone they love – particularly at Christmas.

The giftware trades always pull out all the stops at Christmas and some businesses are only profitable because of the holiday boost. We take on extra staff and everyone works overtime to make sure that all those gifts are packed and posted in time for Santa to deliver them.

This year Highland Titles have taken the decision to “Christmassify” our web site with some holly and snow and Christmas trees. We had fun doing it and we hope you all have fun ordering your Christmas gifts. Remember – order early to avoid disappointment.  Last posting dates are for guidance only. Once we give your order to the Post Office it is really “out of our hands”.

And for everyone who thought you would order your Gathering tickets later, once you found the time – you sadly missed the boat.  As I write, we have two double tickets left to sell and then its all over until 2019.  For everyone who ordered early – I look forward to meeting you next May in Glencoe.

Happy Christmas

Veganism

Let me start by stating that I am an unlikely vegan and not a particularly good vegan. So any ethical vegans; feel free to criticise me and I will not defend myself.  It is true. I am a bad vegan.

As a teenager my loves were chemistry and biology, in that order. But as I approached university, I realised I lacked the maths skills for a career in chemistry. Also a work placement as an analyst put me into the way of professional chemists, who advised me to take any career path other than the one they had chosen.  So I spent three years at Queen Mary, University of London following a degree course in Zoology and Comparative Physiology and a further few years at what is now Royal Holloway, University of London studying for my doctorate in a small, old fashioned Department of Zoology.  During that time, I was elected a Scientific Fellow of the Zoological Society of London, an honour I retain, and I held a Home Office licence which enabled me to conduct small animal surgery under anaesthesia.  Not very vegan.  I also loved meat and all things meaty.

After 13 years in the pharmaceutical industry and five years back in academia in New York I bought a small farm, where I spent five years as an ethical farmer, rearing sheep, pigs, cows, goats and chickens, all with names. From time to time I took one into the barn, killed it, butchered it and ate it.  The children asked not “what is for dinner tonight”, but “who is for dinner tonight”.  All any of us can hope for is a good life and a good death. My animals enjoyed both.

But now I no longer rear animals and I cannot say how they live and die. So I have stopped eating them. I have to report that not eating animals was one of my better decisions and i cannot help but recommend it to all my friends and everyone else as well.

However I am a bad vegan. I put milk in my tea and put butter on my bread. There: I admitted it. Oh and I sometimes even wear leather shoes.  I don’t think I could manage without a splash of Alderney milk in my tea.  Nothing else tastes the same. And on Alderney, the local farmer makes the most wonderful butter from the cream he skims off his skimmed milk.  It is rich and golden and hard as nails. The cows look happy and eat grass in the summer and silage in the winter. The calves are not slaughtered for veal, but have a good life as bullocks until the time comes for them to make the very short journey to the Alderney slaughterhouse.  I feel no need to eat them myself, but it does not seem too bad a life.

A few minutes spent online will catalogue some of the horrors of factory farming. The unimaginable cruelties suffered by some pigs and chickens in particular. The barbaric ritual methods of slaughter practised by some whose lives are still ruled by stone age superstitions. The environmental problems caused by slurry and factory fish farms. I do not need to repeat them here – the information is there for all to see.

My message today is simple. If you eat meat 7 days a week, try to cook without exploiting any animal products on at least one of those days. You will find that a meal can be just as satisfying, just as full of flavour – certainly more interesting than meat and two veg. Again, just go online and search for vegan recipes – or vegetarian if you want a halfway house. If you go out for a meal – try a vegan restaurant if you can find one. My favourite treat when I pass through Edinburgh is a meal at Hendersons.   If you end up somewhere else that caters primarily for carnivores, take a close look at the vegetarian/vegan options. Push your boundaries. Be brave. You never know, you just might like it!