Local Engagement

Duror and Kentallen “CONNECT” Issue 2, Autumn 2019

Highland Titles has just celebrated 12 years as part of the local Glencoe, Duror, Kentallen, Ballachulish community.  We moved in a neglected spruce plantation in the autumn of 2007, full of exciting ideas for transforming into a nature reserve.  Is it any wonder that some people had their doubts?  Nothing like this had ever been tried before.

The first few years were difficult but as we began the transformation from sterile plantation to nature reserve, the doubters were increasingly won over.  Our first volunteers joined us in 2008 and good friend Stanley Cameron, with various heavy plant, constructed the main track and car park. We began brashing the spruce in earnest to help with access and set up feeding stations for a variety of wildlife.  We undertook baseline ecological surveys and took advice from various bodies.

Annual gatherings began in 2013, initially set in magnificent Glencoe House, but latterly moved to the Isles Glencoe Hotel to accommodate the massive interest. We have sold out every year for many years now.  We extended the main track to help with increasing visitor numbers and created two magnificent lochans. Stewart Borland joined us and to deal with the growing quantity of equipment kept on site we constructed our award winning Tool Store.  This also provided shelter for our volunteers and staff.

Local school children increasingly visit, either to help plant or as part of their education. Their involvement in our beekeeping project has been particularly satisfying. They have also been able to help nurture tree seedlings in our polytunnel.

We joined the Glencoe Marketing Group six years ago and improved our links to Visit Scotland, who graded us three stars and then four stars. After consulting our lairds, we moved our shepherds hut “Reception” and the Lairds Lodge onto the site.  Such improvements help all visitors, but particularly those with reduced mobility. The recent new surface to the main track finally makes access possible to disabled visitors.

For ten years now, we have distributed a five figure sum to local good causes and charities. But perhaps more important is the money we put directly into the community by employing staff and buying services. And even more valuable than that is the 10,000 visitors a year who come to walk in our woods and visit their plots.  The value of that to local businesses in incalculable.

Recent years have seen the creation of the wildcat rehabilitation centre and most recently, the Forever Home for injured hedgehogs and the Hedgehog hospital.




The Poor Had No Lawyers

Dr Paul O’Donoghue and his wife, Emily

A friend has drawn my attention to a spat concluding today (8-Nov-19) before Lord Clark in the Court of Session in Edinburgh.  Andrew Dearg Wightman, a Scottish Green Party Member, an MSP for the Lothian region and an old “fan” of Highland Titles, has been brought to justice over some malicious falsehoods he appears to have carelessly published about a fledgling good cause called Wildcat haven Enterprises.  Mr Wightman did the same sort of thing back in the day about Highland Titles, so I think you could fairly describe him as a serial liar. A shame, because he has done some good things. But when you become a troll, reason and truth fly out of the window.

As I write this I have no idea who will win – or perhaps nobody will.  But I wanted to draw attention to the problem of seeking redress through the courts when a malicious scoundrel sets out to cause reputational damage as appears to be the case here.  There are really only two options.  “Suck it up” or sue. Problem is that taking legal action is eye-wateringly expensive, especially when one must take action against a well-funded man such as Andy Wightman. I certainly did not want to take the high road and make lots of Edinburgh lawyers rich.

With a fighting fund approaching £200,000, Mr Wightman, a well paid MSP, appears to have gone for delay and prevarication, simply in order to increase costs for the Wildcats and perhaps force them to fold.  He hired top solicitors BKF & Co (“One of Scotland’s oldest and most expensive law firms”) and perhaps the best (and most expensive barrister) available – Roddy Dunlop QC.  Dr Paul O’Donoghue, meanwhile has begged and borrowed from relatives, read up the law and has had to represent himself in court without benefit of counsel. I believe he has had to mortgage his house and sell his car. Mr Wightman was probably unaware that he had defamed the most doggedly determined man in Britain.

This is truly David and Goliath. Or Paul and Goliath.  A passionate animal lover, prepared to fight to the death to preserve his reputation versus an egotistical politician with a track record of malicious and reckless smearing. Only one party can win here. I know who should win. I know that Paul’s dreams of saving the wildcat have been set back years, perhaps killed altogether, by a very nasty and spiteful individual.  One of them is likely to lose everything. Knuckle-biting stuff.