From day one, we have been eager to encourage our Highland Titles lairds to camp on their land. From teenage days I have enjoyed wild camping and my thoughts were that if I could persuade anyone to give it a try, they might become hooked on the experience and begin a lifetime of hillwalking. However the option has never been widely taken up. Talking to lairds I discovered that many of the potential campers have reached a time in their lives when they prefer a proper mattress. i sympathise. Sadly I am now in the same place.
One of our local supporters makes a living from renting out gypsy caravans and I started to investigate this option. I was soon persuaded that a better solution was a shepherd’s hut.
These huts on wheels were once a feature of farms that bred sheep. The shepherd needed to be with his flock 24/7 during lambing and a hut with a mattress and a log burning stove (to keep the shepherd – and orphan lambs – warm) was easier to build and more roomy inside.
I soon discovered that the best huts were made by Blackdown Shepherd Huts so I went to investigate and bought two of their kits. Cheaper to buy, easier to transport and we could use a lot of local timber which I could be sure was from sustainable sources.
One hut kit has become our magnificent reception/shop and the second is now available for people who would like to experience waking up in a wood but who don’t want to rough it too much!
The “Laird’s Lodge” has power and light, a log burning stove, a fridge and cooker in the kitchinette, table and chairs, a queen size bed and a private toilet. It is available to lairds and ladies via AirBnB for a night that will be gloriously unforgettable. https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/25400524?s=1
Highland Titles staff have been working overtime recently shipping extra orders to Germany in what is often a quiet month. The reason; advertising.
During the 2018 gathering Highland Titles welcomed an independent journalist who spent time with us, met us and learned about the work we are doing. The result was an excellent little film advertising our work, which was published in the prestigious German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine . We were indeed fortunate that the video featured, in addition to myself and some of our happy lairds and ladies, the famous author Andy Wightman MSP, who has advocated wider land ownership for many years.
Of course Andy has no training in Scottish law, so offering advice on Scottish law concerning the sale of Scottish souvenir plots was rash to say the least. However we thank him for taking time out of his busy schedule, as a member of the Scottish Parliament, to contribute to one of our advertising features. His appearance is especially brave as we are aware that he personally faces significant legal troubles concerning previous inaccurate comments that he has made.
Despite it being unclear to what extent he endorses our work, I would like to show our gratitude and my appreciation of his appearing in our film and for his campaign for more diverse Scottish land ownership. So there is a square foot of Glencoe Wood waiting for the future “Laird Wightman” if he would care to let me know where to send it.
It would be hard not to be angry about this failed zoo. The publication yesterday, in the Times, of yet more reports of animal neglect, simply raise our blood pressure, over and above the status that the annual celebration of animal cruelty that is Eid Mubarak. Superstitions have a lot to answer for.
You may recall that this sorry tale began with the escape of a lynx named Lillith. She managed tor evade capture over several days but was finally shot by a local marksman.
Another lynx died at the “Kingdom” shortly afterwards, amply demonstrating the inexperience of the zoo’s owners, the Tweedy’s (no, not from “Chicken Run”) who are a psychotherapist and a street artist. Quite why anyone would trust them to care for wild animals beggars belief.
That they are still operating is a disgrace. That they are almost bankrupt is unsurprising. That animals continue to die is desperately sad. I wish I could do something to help. Something to think about….
Like other business minded conservation groups, we rely to some extent on the help and advice of public relations companies. Our biggest opportunity in the marketplace, apart from the good work that we do, is our exciting and novel way of raising money. Who doesn’t want a bit of land in Scotland? Much more fun than a membership card. Unfortunately, our biggest problem is the cost of advertising what we do. Of the 7.6 billion people on the planet, conservatively 7.5 billion have never heard of us. When people realise what we are selling and how we use the profits from those sales, we do very nicely.
Enter BML Public Relations, our American PR company. Last year they had the original idea of giving everyone in Scotland, Connecticut a free square foot. I liked the idea. The worst that could happen was that we would give away product to 1,694 people and make them very happy. Could be worse. At best, they would all then buy a plot for Uncle Duncan (most of our sales are repeat business), and we would get some free publicity (the sort we prefer).
“The story of a town full of lairds and ladies was an easy pitch to features, lifestyle and seasonal writers from the top 100 designated market areas. By targeting writers at national outlets that covered hyperlocal beats, BMLPR secured an article on APNews.com, which was shared by more than 125 outlets throughout the country, including FOXBusiness.com, ABCNews.go.com, CNBC.com, NYTimes.com, BostonGlobe.com and more.
Ultimately, the stunt delivered 268 media placements and close to 1 billion impressions, along with a holiday sales increase of 34 percent. It’s a great example of taking a typical holiday gift guide pitch to a new level.”
And we are pleased to say that Chicago based PR Daily awarded BML Public Relations and Highland Titles first place in their annual Ragan Awards program, which celebrates the greatest campaigns, initiatives and one-offs in the communication, PR, marketing and media industries.
We are used to accolades for our conservation work but this is the first time that our advertising has been recognised. Full marks to our Marketing Director, Styephen Rossiter, for making this happen.
I have supported the Scottish Wildcat Association charity and Wildcat Haven for many years. They have given us hope that the Scottish Wildcat can be saved as a wild animal.
Then, almost 18 months ago, I announced the launch of a rival organisation that claimed to have the best interests of the Scottish Wildcat at heart. It was launched with huge funding and great razzmatazz. The main problem was that it was hard to see how an organisation that included such disparate interests as driven grouse shooting, the display for profit of wild animals and the felling of the very forests that the wildcat requires for its home and larder could serve the interests of the wildcat. Yes, they talk the talk, but could they walk the walk? Were they going to help the wildcat? Or did they plan to exterminate it in the wild and restrict it to a zoo animal.
The gamekeepers and the zoos have now been exposed as the nasty organisations that we always imagined them to be. Now it is Forestry Commission Scotland and its forest destroying agenda that is in the frame. Friend or foe of the Scottish Wildcat? The jury is out, but it does not look good for them.
It started with the discovery of an unexpected population of Scottish Wildcats in the massive forest of Clashindarroch.
The Clashindarroch Forest was planted only recently, with the first trees being put in the ground before WWII. It covers a range of heights and soil types. Not all of the forest is suitable for tree cover. It is a mosaic including large areas of open ground, often rich in food for Wildcats, such as voles. This is normal for most forests and although there are large plantations within the forest which offer cover, there are also large areas of open ground which support large populations of prey species.
The only threat to the wildcat is the disturbance caused by large scale forestry operations. This disturbance is precisely what Scottish Wildcat Action is recommending. But then including Forestry Commission Scotland in a wildcat organisation is a bit like including an SS Panzer Division in the Allied line of battle. Unlike Scottish Wildcat Action, Wildcat Haven serves no commercial masters worried about profits. Wildcat Haven Is fighting to save this last small population of Aberdeenshire wildcats.
The wildcats have survived since the last ice age in this area despite or perhaps because of the planting. However is is improbable that they will be able to co-exist with large scale mechanised timber harvesting.
Logging is taking place NOW, in the middle of kitten season, disturbing wildcat mothers, which could make them abandon or even eat their young.
The logging will tear the wildcat population apart, and threaten many other rare animals that live in the forest alongside them.
Finally, here’s the letter written by two Wildcat experts to Nicola Sturgeon, The First Minister of Scotland:
Dear Mrs Sturgeon,
We are writing to you as originators of the petition to protect Clashindarroch Forest in Aberdeenshire, which has over 205,000 signatures so far (www.change.org/SaveTheWildcats).
At least 13 high-purity Scottish wildcats live in Clashindarroch, the largest single population recorded anywhere; possibly a third of the national population and certainly critical to it.
As a commercial forest it is subject to rotational felling by Forest Enterprise Scotland, which raises a significant risk of disturbing wildcats and destroying their dens. Two “significant” wind farms are also in planning between FES, Vattenfall and Fred Olsen Renewables.
We are sure that your advisors at Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland have told you that everything is as it should be in Clashindarroch, but we can demonstrate that it isn’t. The current situation is likely to place you as the First Minister in charge when the wildcat went extinct.
As required, FES do appear to be carrying out pre-felling surveys to check for wildcat presence. However, it has been proven that those surveys have failed to identify wildcat territories which were subsequently felled; “reckless” disturbance and destruction in law.
In one case FES were shown evidence of a wildcat on a site already being clear-felled. They briefly ceased operations accepting the cat was present, then continued clear-felling anyway. This virtually guaranteed the destruction of dens and resting places, as well as the disturbance and displacement of that cat; “deliberate” disturbance and destruction in law.
An FES species ecologist commented that “cats can move”, even though the law expressly forbids this happening. He is also the only ecologist we are aware of with the opinion that forcing the movement of highly territorial, legally protected, and critically endangered animals is no big deal.
Further justification for felling has been offered by Scottish Wildcat Action who claim they have peer-reviewed evidence that wildcats benefit from 90 hectares of their territory being clear-felled. This evidence relies on a dataset of domestic tabby cats and eye witness sightings reaching back to the 1800s; random members of the public thinking they might have seen a wildcat somewhere.
They also cite a study of German wildcats living in a hurricane deforested landscape, and two studies of Spanish wildcats living in unforested scrub landscapes. That these cats did not use forest very often (of course they had none to use), is provided as evidence that Scottish wildcats benefit from industrial clear-felling creating a “mosaic” of deforested areas within a forest.
These are gross misrepresentations of science. There is absolutely no evidence that Scottish wildcats benefit in any way from clear-felling, and a considerable body of evidence and legal protections making clear that it is extremely detrimental to their survival.
Then the two wind farms. Deatils are unknown of the Fred Olsen plan but FES themselves call it “significant”, and requiring “significant clear-felling”.
Plans are available for a Vattenfall project to extend the wind farm on the edge of Clashindarroch. It will cut the forest and wildcat population in two and clear fell up to a quarter of it. FES were keen to keep this “under the radar” according to their internal emails, expecting wildcats would be an issue; which we find outstandingly poor behaviour for a public agency, managing a public forest, talking about a legally protected and critically endangered species.
Vattenfall 2 will immediately make numerous wildcats homeless and cause the collapse of the Clashindarroch population. Whatever the size, Fred Olsen’s Longbank project will ensure the collapse is a rapid process.
The loss of this population will mean extinction; there is no evidence to show that there are more than 35 wildcats left. SNH have dropped their own population estimates from 400 to 100 over the same period that they have spent £2m of public and Lottery money allegedly saving the wildcat.
We, and over 205,000 other people, believe the case is clear; the wildcat is not safe so long as Clashindarroch can be commercially exploited. Scotland has many windy hills and many commercial forests, but this is the only one with a resident population of wildcats.
We understand there’s a great deal of process and investigation that has to take place to fully inform MSPs of the situation in Clashindarroch, as well as a Parliamentary close imminent, but Scotland’s rarest animal is at risk right now, purely because failing FES surveys tick a box in a forestry stewardship form.
We feel the only sensible choice is to put a moratorium on all forest exploitation in Clashindarroch Forest until Parliament is next in session and able to deliver a fully informed decision on whether it can be protected.
Please, meet with us and let us show you the evidence for what is at stake, and how the wildcat population is being brushed aside by both Forestry Commission and Scottish Natural Heritage in their action planning, procedures, PR activities and internal communications.
Dr Paul O’Donoghue and Steve Piper On behalf of Wildcat Haven
I have posted before about my poor record as a vegan. I am not as singleminded as most vegans and this was brought home to me earlier this year when one of the websites I follow, Go Vegan Scotland, published a post that made little sense to me. It described an English school which had reared a group of four piglets to educate the children about animal husbandry. Once they reached adulthood (5 months) they were returned to the breeder. Allowing children to learn about farm animals and permitting them to consider their death and consumption as pork pies, full English breakfasts and ham sarnies was too much for some vegans who created a great deal of fuss. It is likely that the experiment will not be repeated, much to the detriment of the children and probably the pigs. Conditions in pig farms are often substandard IMHO and having kept and eaten pigs myself I know how fun loving and playful they can be if given space to run around and enjoy themselves – as I expect they did at the school.
Go Vegan Scotland went much further and argued that not giving in to Vegan demands to allow the pigs to move on to an animal sanctuary infringed the human rights of a child of vegan parents at the school. Frankly this sort of silly over-reaction simply makes non-vegans turn away from considering veganism as a sensible movement.
What would have been sensible would have been to lobby for the exercise to go to its logical conclusion, with the children following the pigs to the slaughterhouse and viewing the unpleasant reality of how farm animals make the transition from fun-loving personalities to sausages and mince. I worked on pig duodenum for several years and consider that visiting my local abbatoir and watching the “innards” slither down the chute to reach the men who processed the whiffy bits would do more for veganism than any amount of protesting about ” ‘uman” rights” by well-intentioned hippies.
Which leads us on to the question of animal slaughter in the UK. Frankly I am very concerned about several aspects of the process. The loss of hundreds of small abattoirs has created longer journeys for the animals. The trade-off should be higher standards in those that remain, but an increasing number of slaughterhouses making use of the religious exemptions from the requirement to avoid pain by pre-stunning offset any such gains.
In my ideal world we would all eat lentils, but I know that is not going to happen. Eating meat is in our DNA and most people will not let go of their lust for flesh. My philosophy is simple. If we cannot prevent the raising of animals for consumption they MUST have a good life and a good death. That is all I hope for for myself and those I love. Why not for farm animals too. And let us not forget that most wild animals get neither and precious few humans achieve it either. However we can aspire to make it so for farm animals.
Compassion in Word Farming has the right idea on most things. They were founded in 1967 by a British farmer and they campaign to end factory farming. However I have come to suspect that the biggest problem we now face in the UK is not the absence of a good life, but the reality of a bad death for an increasing percentage of animals.
In 2015 the Independent newspaper reported on secretly filmed footage showing British abattoir workers repeatedly hacking at sheep’s throats, hurling them into solid structures and kicking them in the face.
Other images captured during the filming of the Halal slaughter of 400 sheep over three days showed:
*Sheep being kicked in the face and head, lifted by their ears, fleeces or legs, and hurled into solid structures.
*A worker bouncing up and down on the neck of a sheep that is still conscious.
*Staff laughing over a sheep bleeding to death with spectacles drawn around its eyes in green paint.
*Knives being sharpened in front of sheep, which also saw other animals being shackled and hoisted.
*Sheep falling from a chute on to a slippery floor in the kill area and frequently thrown head-first into a solid upright structure, which is part of the conveyor.
Some of these abuses might also have been captured in non-Halal or Kosher abbatoirs but for the first time, for myself anyway, attention was drawn to the fact that some people were exempted from the laws that stop the rest of us from torturing animals. Slit your dog’s throat and you will be prosecuted. Slit the throats of 400 sheep after mumbling some Arabic words and you get your pay cheque and a pat on the back from the boss.
Best practice requires stunning of the animals before they are killed. When stunning is done correctly, the animal feels no pain and it becomes instantly unconscious. When animals are not pre-stunned or when electricity is used only to immobilize and paralyze animals to hold them still (as in so called pre-stunned Halal slaughter), a painful and slow death by exsanguination is inevitable. A quick search of YouTube will provide enough examples of the horrors of Halal slaughter to stop you sleeping for a month. I dare you to watch this video and still consider that Britain should accept the horror of Halal slaughter. Go on. Agree with me or watch this and never sleep again.
The solution is very simple. exemptions from humane slaughter that currently permit killing farm animals in Britain by methods which may have been acceptable to primitive desert dwelling nomads but which are no longer tolerable in a civilised society must be withdrawn. Nobody has to eat meat and if anyone’s belief system does not permit them to eat humanely killed meat then that is all to the good. The ranks of vegetarians and vegans will be boosted and these people will be healthier and happier for the change. Nobody has to eat meat and nobody should have the right to kill animals with pain and fear just because they believe they should be able to. We banned bull fighting, bear baiting, dog fights, fox hunting and much more besides to the horror and fury of those who believed they had the right torture dumb beasts. Religious slaughter is no different and it must be stopped.
In the interim and for the benefit of slaughter generally, mandatory CCTV may be the way forward. Indeed recently the government has launched a consultation on plans to make CCTV mandatory for slaughterhouses in England. It is proposed that cameras would be placed in all areas of the slaughterhouse where live animals are present. Slaughterhouse vets would have unrestricted access to the footage.
To my mind that only goes part of the way. Half of all slaughterhouses already have CCTV (According to the Food Standards Agency around 49 per cent of red meat slaughterhouses and 70 per cent of white meat slaughterhouses have some form of CCTV), but Animal Aid in a recent series of undercover filmings identified several abattoirs who were lawbreaking and had CCTV installed. The CCTV had not prevented these breaches of the law. I would require all slaughterhouses to stream the CCTV footage to the internet to permit the public to check they were complying with the law. Frankly I have little confidence in the slaughterhouse vets.
I have to admit that I had rather forgotten about the whole defamation thing. Highland Titles is in a particularly good place just now – 2017 was our tenth year of growth with our highest turnover and profit ever. This provides us with an income that we can use to do much much more than we ever imagined when we hung out our shingle in 2006. The lucky 100 who are booked to attend the 2018 gathering will hear about our plans first. Those on our mailing list will hear next. It does keep me busy, but that is certainly a very good thing.
But Mr Wightman was brought to my attention again last week when I received an email from a friend alerting me to a tweet (below). It appears that Mr Wightman will be dusting off his begging bowl again.
What a difference a year makes! Eleven months ago the news of his crowdfunder appeal for a modest £10,000 electrified Twitter. 318 hearts and 592 retweets. Wow. This year the request for an additional extraordinary £120,000 created a massive social media yawn. One heart and a comment from Cathy. Hopefully she will be donating the full £120,000 because nobody else appears to be interested.
The crowdfunder for my defamation case is now live. Thanks to all who have offered support so far. Donate here https://t.co/6d5USWf85N
One possibility is that people realise that trying to defend the indefensible is an expensive and futile ambition. Surely it would be better to apologise and try to set the matter straight?
To spend so much money on lawyers which could be better spent on a million diverse good causes is arguably the behaviour of a man who knows with unwavering confidence even beyond conceit that he’s benefitting everyone around him. He must be saved at all costs no matter what damage he may have caused to the little people. He cannot be seen to have erred.
His statement on his website that the court date “may well be a year or more away”, taken in context with his previous delaying tactics, suggest that his strategy might be to try and make the other side (a small wildlife non-profit) run out of money as their legal fees steadily increase. He states “The estimated duration of the hearing is 8 days”. Quite frankly this is ridiculous. The case is a simple open and shut case which I am advised could be concluded in two or three days. His desire for an 8 day hearing would result in increased costs and massive delay.
If he had wanted to get his day in court, I cannot but wonder why he turned down the offer(s) of free legal help that he received. Rather than represent himself, accept free help or turn to any number of well-intentioned “legal” friends who would surely have been pleased to represent him for a modest fee, Mr Wightman, possibly sensing the truly impossible job of making black look white, turned to one of the more expensive advocates at the Edinburgh bar, Roderick W. Dunlop Q.C.
As I have made very clear under oath to the court (see transcript above), my only connection to Wildcat Haven (and Wildcat Haven Enterprises), is that a company that I represent as a director, Highland Titles Limited, has been funding it since WH was formed in 2015. Before that we funded the Scottish Wildcat Association. Highland Titles have poured well over £100,000 into wildcat conservation and I do not begrudge a penny of it. We plan to donate considerably more as do other organisations.
But nobody gives away money without making checks that hard earned cash will not be misused. We met with the principals of both organisations before funding them and undertook due diligence. We are well aware therefore that Mr Wightman has got many of his facts wrong as indeed he has done for Highland Titles. The court will eventually determine whether these factual inaccuracies amount to defamation and if so what damages are due to Wildcat Haven Enterprises.
This leads me to observe that Mr Wightman, in his latest blog update on his website, has been just a teensy bit mendacious – it is called lying by omission – in his description of the case against him – perhaps unintentionally done. He states:
Wildcat Haven Enterprises CIC claims that statements that I made in the two blogs are defamatory. I do not accept that they are.
Yet my personal opinion is that his tweets have been far more defamatory than his blogs and he fails to mention that they are also part of the case against him. Mr Wightman has elsewhere drawn attention to his difficulty in responding to the six pages of his tweets (as well he might).
Pleadings & defences due to close 20 Dec in Wildcat Haven Enterprises CIC vs Andy Wightman. This weekend researching & responding to 6 new pages (25% increase) in pursuers pleadings incl many tweets from 2015 with 4 days to go. pic.twitter.com/2ks4fNSyv9
Highland Titles sells souvenir plots of land, so we take a keen interest in the subject of land registration. In a previous post, I discuss the law concerning land sales in Scotland so I will try not to repeat myself. Persistent followers of Highland Titles, lawyers Malcolm Combe and Jill Robbie have argued that the “sterilisation of land should not be encouraged”, but I believe this to be very much a minority view.
Most people believe that land ownership should be spread more widely. The Scotsman reports that analysis by land reform campaigner and now Green MSP Andy Wightman has estimated that half of the privately-owned land is in the hands of 432 people. An hour with Google will prove that the general opinion is that ownership of land should be spread around more people rather than less and that protection of tracts of countryside by placing it into multiple ownership would be a good thing.
As I have clarified earlier, Scottish law was forced to restrict registration of souvenir plots by the Registers of Scotland, who lacked the capacity or will to register small low-value pieces of land. This is explained in “Registration of Title Practice Book The Policy and Practice of Land Registration in Scotland“As is so often the case, the wants of the rich and powerful rode roughshod over the equally valid wants of those who only wished to purchase a token size piece of land for sentimental or commemorative purposes.
Our souvenir plots are purchased by people all over the world for a wide variety of reasons. We know who they are and they can choose whether to make their details public on our Scottish Land Register. Should they wish to transfer ownership to a new owner then the register can be updated to show the new ownership.
Our Plot Register is available now available for all to view (even Green MSPs) at www.highlandtitles.com/find_plots/ There is no charge to register land or to search the register.
Since we launched the land register, uptake has been significant. A few plot owners still prefer to keep their plot ownership a secret, sometimes to the chagrin of those who hope to discover the extent of their land holdings. However I believe that the Highland Titles Land Register goes a considerable way to fulfill Mr Wightman’s campaign to “End the Secrecy”.
The snow has finally arrived here in Scotland and our thoughts turn to the welfare of the birds that decided not to fly south. Feeding birds in winter is both rewarding and enjoyable.
In winter the temperatures drop and the natural food supply dries up. You can now expect to see more of your garden birds at a well stocked table. As well as food, they need fresh, unfrozen water for drinking and bathing. They need fatty foods such as fat balls as well as seeds. Also why not leave some hedges and ivy for shelter. Plant berry bearing trees such as hawthorne and rowan and you may be lucky enough to see waxwings and other winter migrants.
To attract the greatest number of species in the winter, it is important to have a number of different bird feeders available. The feeders you use during the winter should have several characteristics in common.
Your bird table should be covered so seed does not get buried during snowfalls or blown away in storms. The cover should extend several inches over the edge of the table to ensure protection from all but the most serious storms.
Ideally, winter bird feeders should be placed in sheltered locations out of the wind. Placing feeders closer to the house will be effective and will help keep the birds visible for indoor birdwatching.
Most birds that visit gardens in snowy weather feed on seeds, since insects and fruit are harder to find naturally during the winter. The best foods to offer birds in colder weather have a high fat or oil content that will provide abundant energy for winter survival. Nutritious winter foods for birds include:
White millet seed
When choosing birdseed and other foods for winter feeding, take into consideration which bird species are present in the winter and what foods they prefer to avoid excess wasted seed.
Meal worms are also appreciated by most garden birds, especially robins and blackbirds. Fat balls are a great energy boost and tend to be made of lard/suet, nuts, cereals and sunflower seeds, so are densely packed with essential energy and fats for birds. Tits love fat balls as do sparrows, starlings, blackbirds and black caps.
Often neglected, is household food waste, which can often be a great wildlife boost. Soft fruits, uncooked porridge oats, grated cheese, cooked pasta and rice, soaked currants, raisins and sultanas, biscuit crumbs and pastry crumbs are all great foods to feed to birds with in the winter. Finely chopped unsalted bacon, and fats from other unsalted meats are all fine. Potatoes, mashed, baked or roasted are also welcomed by birds. Anything salted should be avoided on your bird table, as should any margarine or soft fats. Never offer food which is moldy or rancid. Remember that food scraps should always be placed on a bird-table as sprinkling on the ground can attract rats
Final bit of advice. Once you start feeding birds, please continue to feed them throughout the winter, as they will come to rely on your offerings.
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.
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
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.
ii) the location(s) of plots of land ’’sold” or being offered for sale by the pursuer;
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.
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.
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.
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.