Bombshell ballot result sees Morvern estate buy-out collapse

Caisteal nan Con, Killundine. NO F45 IMG Caisteal nan Con

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As the dust settles on the bombshell ballot result that saw a sizeable majority of local Morvern residents vote against a community bid to buy the 2,500-hectare Killundine Estate, reasons why so many voters turned against the project remain a mystery.

News came through on Friday that the ballot on whether the bid should proceed, had seen 142 people vote no, with 102 in favour.

The bid will now not progress further, in spite of £2.4million being raised by Morvern Community Woodlands (MCW) – which included £1million from the Scottish Land Fund.

The vote result came just ahead of MCW’s Hallowe’en fundraising target being met largely through what the group described as ‘philanthropic donations’.

‘It is a particular disappointment for MCW because the outcome of our attempts – all done by volunteers – was that MCW was on the point of securing the necessary £2.7 million,’ explained Alasdair Firth, chairman of MCW.

‘However, MCW accepts that the ballot demonstrates that the project did not have the community’s support and that, therefore, this result brings it to an end.’

Local resident Iain Thornber, a long-time critic of the buy-out plans, believes there was a host of reasons for the ballot result.

These, he claimed, included MCW not being seen as representing the wider community; MCW failing to convince local residents its members had the necessary knowledge and experience to work and run a large agricultural unit and the bid group failing to organise a ballot right at the beginning.

‘They failed because even if they had found enough money for the capital
cost, there were serious concerns that the rebuilding and running costs
would fall back on the public purse which in turn would result in higher
taxation locally,’ added Mr Thornber.

‘This was the wrong place, time and group. I would be surprised if Killundine won’t be
held up by the Scottish Government as a ‘how not to do it’ and pushes
the community right to buy legislation back years.’

Lochaber constituency MSP Kate Forbes said public opinion on Morvern was ‘most definitely split’ when it came to the proposal.

‘It does seem a great shame that there are properties on the estate falling into disrepair at a time when we are in great need of housing and bringing young families into the area,’ she said.

‘I hope this isn’t the end and that local people will be able to come and work together to attract proper investment, new homes and jobs.’