Castle Toward (or what the fuss is about)
I held a surgery in Bute at lunchtime today and as I was in Edinburgh last night I decided to take the train to Wemyss Bay and then the ferry to Rothesay.
As the boat came past Innellan it occurred to me that I might be able to get a picture from the sea of Castle Toward and this is the best of them - it was a grey and wet day and it is taken through glass. But it does give an impression of the size and setting of the place .
This building and its surrounding land is the subject of a community buyout proposal which those who follow this journal will know something about. I have blipped it before (even with a Santa in it !) but the plans of the community are now hanging by a thread after the refusal last December of Argyll & Bute Council to sell it for the £750,000 offered (and which is the level of a new valuation). This is a plan, by the way, that has the backing of the Scottish Land Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Government.
Yesterday the Council leader, Dick Walsh, who is actually a local member for the area , personally moved a motion at the full Council to prevent an extension to the closing date for negotiation with the community , As a result next Friday , if the Council does not change its mind and enter into a sensible discussion, the community will fail in its second attempt to buy this property. There is no other buyer on the horizon and the building is costing the council £22,500 a month to keep wind and water tight.
If a private landlord had behaved towards a community and its aspirations in the way Argyll & Bute Council has behaved he or she would have been roundly condemned the length and breadth of Scotland. Their actions are a spur for more legal change to force some sense into situations like this as Councils are amongst the most reluctant to transfer assets - wasting assets like this empty, decaying building which the Council obtained for nothing years ago - into the hands of local people who could use them more productively and make them generators of jobs leading to an increase in the local population as would happen here.
I spoke yesterday in a Scottish Parliament debate about Argyll & Bute's population problems. If the rhetoric of its administration meant anything at all it would be jumping at the chance to engage with communities in order to meet its priorities. Instead it is arrogantly pushing them away.