Scottish Wildcat Kittens

I have been alarmed about the declining population of wildcats in Scotland for many years.  When I decided I should actually do something positive, I found that the only person who appeared to be actively helping was Steve Piper, the owner of Coffee Films, who had become “radicalised” during the making of a film about wildcats, “Last of the Scottish Wildcats“. He had formed the Scottish charity, The Scottish Wildcat Association, in 2009 and I met up with him a couple of years later, one wet autumn morning in Fort William.

Wildlife vet neutering hybrid wildcat in Ardnamurchan

What I found was remarkable. With very little in the way of finance, he had gathered a few volunteers and begun work clearing feral and hybrid wildcats from a 500 square mile peninsula called Ardnamurchan. His strategy was simple. Meet with the local communities to explain the problem and gain their trust and support. He offered the communities free cat and then went on to find cats that were living wild, using a combination of local knowledge, camera traps (low light cameras, automatically triggered by movement) and lure sticks (rough stakes, baited with fish oil that the cats then rub up against, leaving identifying hair samples).  Once a likely cat territory was located, volunteers set cage traps which had to be checked daily.  Cats were then identified and pure wildcats were inoculated against common feline diseases and released. Other cats were neutered in addition before release. Thus the cat territories were not disturbed, ensuring that other cats were unable to enter their territories, but any successful matings could only be between wildcats.

I immediately pledged to support their work and in 2013 I went further and committed Highland Titles to collect donations directly from our supporters. This soon ensured that Highland Titles were a major financial backer of the Scottish Wildcat Association.

Dr Paul O’Donoghue with sedated rhino in South Africa

But change was coming to the Scottish Wildcat Association. They had reached out to an enthusiastic conservation biologist working as a lecturer at Chester University, who was working on a DNA test which would help distinguish hybrid cats from wildcats. Dr Paul O’Donoghue, a Senior Lecturer in Conservation Biology has a distinguished track record both in field work and bench science, working with a range of endangered species including wildcats. His expertise and passion injected a much needed boost to the work

as the Scottish Wildcat Association morphed into Wildcat Haven in 2014. Highland Titles approved this development and we increased our funding. Paul created the Lynx UK trust and began work on reintroducing the eurasian lynx. This was heady stuff and confirmed our belief in Paul. Like us, he believed that conservation involved a “JFDI” attitude rather than committee meetings, tea and biscuits, SOPs and discussion papers. Here was somebody we could work with.

Proposed New Wildcat Haven

My son in law, Douglas Wilson decided to leave Highland Titles to join Paul and help fund his work, creating Wildcat Haven Enterprises a year later. With the funding from this new enterprises and a significant grant from Highland Titles, we hoped that Wildcat Haven could begin work on the “Holy Grail”, an area of the Scottish highlands that included the entire land mass north west of the Great Glen – almost 9,000 square miles.  This area, cleared of fertile hybrid cats and feral cats could support a huge population of wildcats.

Snared wildcat. Copyright: raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com

At this point we need to take a moment to look at the other threats that face the dwindling population of genetically pure Scottish wildcats, besides the main one – hybridisation. Firstly there are Scottish gamekeepers, that regard all cats as “vermin”. One of the brief resurgences in wildcat populations was after WW1, when the gamekeepers were busy with vermin that fired back. To quote “the Herald Magazine”, “The demise of the Scottish wildcat can, like many other native predators, be placed firmly at the door of the Scottish shooting estates whose relentless persecution has driven them to the point where they are now rarer than endangered tigers in India (July 14 2012).   The second threat, increasing significantly as the population dwindles, is the pressure from zoos and wildlife parks, hungry for kittens to tempt the paying public through their turnstiles. There are already a large number of hybrids in captivity and some may even be pure wildcats. Using the excuse of “a breeding programme” they are ever eager to identify the last few pure wildcats to add to their displays.  Between these two agencies, there arises an ambition to certify the wildcat as extinct in the wild. The zoos could then proceed to produce better quality kittens and the gamekeepers could safely and legally resume their cat killing in the name of vermin control. A third threat has come from the replacement of heath and forest, i.e. wildcat territory, with commercial plantations with very little value to wildcats. However under pressure, some cats have taken refuge even here and if identified as utilising particular forestry resources, logging might be impeded. Thus commercial forestry also has a major incentive to see the wildcat removed from the wild and declared extinct.

In 2007, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) included the Scottish Wildcat on a list of 32 species for priority conservation action in the Cairngorms National Park, which would mean that effort and government money would be focused on its conservation. As their partners in this enterprise, the Cairngorms National Park Authority selected, in addition to SNH, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association (SGA), and Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS). and Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS).  Three organisations less likely to help the recovery of the Scottish wildcat as a free-living wild animal would be difficult to imagine. Between them, these three organisations probably represent the greatest existential threat to the native Scottish wildcat.

This is not to say that the project was not without merit. The project sought to do four things:
1. Raising awareness of wildcats and their conservation
2. Neutering domestic cats
3. Working with estates
4. Researching and monitoring wildcats

Using social media, older media and talks, the public were educated about the awful plight of the wildcat. Using the cat welfare charity, “Cats Protection” and volunteers,  a program of neutering and vaccination of domestic and feral cats was carried out within the CNP. A practical protocol for feral cat control activities that minimised the risks of harming wildcats was developed and was adopted by some estates. Finally a camera trap program was run to establish the baseline and trend data on wildcat and feral cat presence on the five participating estates.

A cynical observer might conclude that the expensive publicly funded project simply proved what we always suspected – that there were no wildcats in the Cairngorms. As a bonus, the estates could therefore continue to kill cats with impunity, whilst sheltering behind a “protocol” that their gamekeepers could accept – and quietly ignore. Meanwhile, SNH staff could expand their empires, eat more biscuits whilst holding more meetings, attend more conferences, and write more discussion documents.  Everybody wins except the Scottish wildcat.

So when the Cairngorms Wildcat Project concluded in 2012,  SNH decided to expand the scope of the project, both in terms of the area covered and also the aims, including, most controversially, the establishment of a captive breeding programme. This would ensure that the zoos that were partners in this new project got something.  Captive breeding means kittens and kittens means paying zoo visitors.

The new project, Scottish Wildcat Action, expanded the range of partners to include the Scottish Government, Highland Council and several other biscuit munching organisations.  Some of the objects were laudable if honestly implemented, but the biggest problem revolved around the aim to “develop a captive breeding programme”.

With any species seriously threatened in the wild, captive breeding can provide an insurance policy against extinction, no one likes seeing wild animals in cages but it is preferable to them disappearing from the world entirely.

Scottish wildcats have been held in various captive collections for decades, and unfortunately that’s where problems stem from; they were taken into captivity and bred long before hybridisation was understood. So probably all the Scottish wildcats currently held in captivity anywhere are hybridised to some extent; there may be no pure Scottish wildcats in captivity. So we have no insurance policy against extinction of the pure/true/original form unless pure wildcats can be identified in the wild, captured and successfully bred. The wildcat could then continue as a species in captivity.

In order to create a captive breeding program it would be essential that sufficient pure wildcats are taken from the wild to prevent inbreeding. With the wild population being barely sufficient to achieve this, the reality would be extinction of the wild population so that the Scottish wildcat would exist only in captivity.

Now this state of affairs would benefit several groups. Gamekeepers would be able to return to killing cats with traps, knowing that they could not be prosecuted for illegally killing a wildcat. The commercial foresters, such as the Forestry Commission Scotland would be ably to extract timber without having to consider the welfare of wildcats and the zoos would have a regular supply of cute wildcat kittens to open the purses of the paying public.

And I am not alone in seeing self interest in the groups who constitute Scottish Wildcat Action. Jonny Hughes, CEO of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, writing in the Scotsman, confirms that “Scottish Wildcat Action is … considering reinforcing remaining populations with wildcats bred in a conservation breeding programme being led by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland”. This would surely necessitate capturing the best wildcats and condemning them to a life in a cage.

He also indirectly clarifies why Forestry Commission needs the services of a sycophantic and subservient Scottish Wildcat Action, to justify the destruction of prime wildcat territory – the Scottish forest. Jonny writes “It (Scottish Wildcat Action) has also been improving habitat in places like Clashindarroch Forest, where sensitive forestry operations are creating ideal wildcat habitat with mosaics of open ground – often rich in prey such as field voles – in combination with denser plantation woodland.” This is simply doublespeak for “The Forestry Commission has continued logging Clashindarroch Forest despite knowing that it sustains one of the biggest and best populations of Wildcats still remaining. Doubtless it will soon be mooted by Scottish Wildcat Action that these last few wildcats should be rounded up and condemned to cage breeding “for the good of the species”. then the Gamekeepers could resume their vermin destruction in peace. Everyone happy (except the wildcats) and the SNH biscuit-munchers would be free to resume their empire-building in the knowledge of a job well done. It makes my blood boil!

In 2016 I had a long meeting with Dr Paul O’Donoghue, the Scientific Adviser to Wildcat Haven, and we considered the possibility that SWA would use their government licence to take adult wildcats from their remote glens and cage them in order to beef up their failing captive breeding program.  Of the 21 wildcat kittens born at RZSS (Highland Wildlife Park and Edinburgh zoo) over the previous four five had died and fourteen had been neutered because they were such poor hybrids. Even more frightening was the prospect that they would keep the best wildcat kittens, that are sometimes found and handed in. These need to be kept as wild as possible before being released into a hybrid and feral free area such as Ardnamurchan.  However we thought it unlikely that any zoo would voluntarily return a perfect specimen to the wild.

The largest of the holding pens at the Highland Titles Scottish Wildcat Rehabilitation Facility

So I committed Highland Titles to creating the best possible wildcat rehabilitation facility possible – essentially several acres of mixed woodland enclosed with a very high fence plus other associated holding pens and stores. This was constructed during 2017 and launched in spring 2018.

I have always been ambivalent about zoos and our nature reserve will not become a zoo.  However there are zoos and zoos.  Borth Wild Animal Kingdom, a small underfunded animal park in mid Wales, for example, is very different to Durrell in Jersey.  However any zoo is ultimately a business. You view our animals and pay us for the privilege.  Highland Titles is different. Our funding is entirely independent of any need to display animals.  This enables us to fund a rehabilitation centre and design it 100% for the benefit of the wildcats.  If nobody ever sees them then that’s fine by us!

Animals deserve to be in the wild if at all possible and I have been massively impressed by the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre (AWCC).  The AWCC takes in injured and orphaned animals and provides them with spacious enclosures and quality animal care. Most of the animals that arrive at the AWCC become permanent residents because they are unable to be released.  The AWCC then provides a permanent high quality home. The Center maintains over 200 acres of spacious habitats for animals to feel at home and display their natural “wild” behavior. Visitors may see brown bears cooling off in the water, a bull moose strutting, wood bison roaming on pastures and more.

These are the ethics I apply to any animals that come my way.  Release them if at all possible.  If impossible, provide the best home I can.  If we were to receive an injured wildcat that could never be released, then the presence of humans would not be a serious matter.  But any wildcat that could be released later, such as kittens, must be protected from human presence. A successful transfer to the wild requires that they fear and dislike humans.

Our first kitten

We received lots of media interest and happily showed several journalists around, before settling down to wait and see what would turn up. You can imagine our delight when, at the end of June, we had a call from Wildcat Haven to let us know that two wildcat kittens would be taking up residence.  A member of the public had seen some kittens playing dangerously close to a road and alerted Wildcat Haven.  They alerted staff and volunteers working nearby and after establishing that they had indeed been abandoned, two kittens were caught, checked for health and moved to our Rehabilitation Facility. Initially they were confined to a small area of the main enclosure and provided with ample food and water. They were monitored using camera traps as our first imperative was not to habituate them to humans.  The access road to the facility was closed and signs warned all visitors to the reserve that this area was now off limits. Only one or two people approached the facility on any day – to provide food and to replace memory cards on the camera traps.

And that was the start of our first year of operation in the Highland Titles Scottish wildcat rehabilitation centre, which currently holds three wildcat kittens. We will not know for certain that they are all sufficiently pure to release intact because wildcat identification still relies heavily on pelage scoring – which can only be done on an adult cat. Any cats that turn out to be hybrids will be neutered before release. For now, we can only ensure that they see humans as infrequently as possible, that they are vaccinated against common cat diseases and that they are eating as much “wild” food (such as day old chicks and mice) as possible.  We want them to be in the best possible condition next Easter when we release them.


If you wish to support the work of Wildcat Haven, please consider donating here.

The Shepherds Hut

The Lairds Lodge

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

Famous Scottish MSP “Advertises” Highland Titles


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.

 

 

Borth Wild Animal Kingdom

By Bernard Landgraf (User:Baerni) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=217822

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….

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/fight-to-the-death-at-troubled-borth-wild-animal-kingdom-5ln2c9nzb

http://archive.is/rc4KV

Free Land Stunt

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).

Ragan’s PR Daily described it thus 

“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.

Land Registration

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 ScotlandAs 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”.

Green MSP Andy Wightman makes use of the Highland Titles Land Register

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

Memorial Benches

 

Highland Titles has always recognised the importance of our nature reserves, not just to the benefits to wildlife and the wider community, but to the quality of life of individual visitors , and the impact that these special places can have on them.

A memorial bench is a means of connecting people with their favourite location, place, or viewpoint. We also benefit from being able to provide a place to rest whilst touring the reserve and we therefore fully support memorial benches on our sites.

Thus it was that in late 2013 we began to evaluate suitable benches and after visiting several manufacturers we decided to offer the 5ft (1.6metre) Athol bench manufactured in pressure treated redwood by Scottish Prison Service (SPS) Industries.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) is an agency of the Scottish Government and the manufacture of timber products is part of their duty to provide rehabilitation services to Scottish prisoners.

Their principal objective is to contribute to making Scotland Safer by Protecting the Public and Reducing Reoffending. The SPS aims to achieve this by ensuring delivery of secure custody, safe and ordered prisons, decent standards of care and opportunities for prisoners to develop in a way that help them reintegrate into the community on release.

We believe that this is a laudable aim and The Athol Bench is a quality product which is manufactured from sustainably grown timber and which with some care will last for many years.

Twitter Abuse

I have been the victim of twitter abuse, and I have reported this fact both to Fort William police and the Scottish Parliament. Some of the abusers are known and some have wisely sought to stay anonymous. However this may not save them from legal consequences.

Yesterday, Alison Saunders, head of the CPS announced that Hate Crime would be a new priority and I welcome that.

Prosecutors will be ordered to treat online hate crime as seriously as offences carried out face to face in plans announced by the director of public prosecutions. Alison Saunders said the Crown Prosecution Service will seek stiffer penalties for abuse on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.

Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions on hate crime

Published on Aug 21, 2017

The CPS describe Hate Crime as including “verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, harassment, assault and bullying” motivated by hostility (There is no legal definition of hostility so the CPS use the everyday understanding of the word which includes ill-will, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment and dislike).  The law in Scotland is different, but harassment is still harassment, even north of the border.

According to the Herald, “Wings Over Scotland” blogger, Stuart Campbell, was recently arrested. The Herald further reports “Police said the arrest was on suspicion of harassment and malicious communications”. Stuart Campbell reports on his website that none of the tweets were in any way threatening, but as I learned when I visited Fort William police, a campaign of harassment need not be threatening, merely unwanted and unwelcome.

I note with interest that Andy Wightman MSP, who has blogged and tweeted about me and Highland Titles for over two years, appears to have taken a break from using his twitter account. Recently one of the more agressive web sites, which has targeted me and Highland Titles since 2011, was deleted. I welcome this progress. The future will be a better place if the internet is no longer used as a vehicle for the dissemination of lies and harassment.