Cashel Estate and the post-war Labour Government

The excellent Parkswatch blog has published a piece today on the sale of the 1242ha Cashel Estate on the east shore of Loch Lomond in the heart of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.

In 1946, the new Labour Chancellor, Hugh Dalton, in his first budget in 1946 announced the formation of the National Land Fund

Mr Dalton
Finally, I have a word to say about the land, and about the special fund to which I have already referred. In 1909, 37 years ago, David Lloyd George introduced a famous Budget. Liberals in those days sang the “Land Song “—” God gave the land to the people.” I think that the right hon. Member for Woodford used to sing that song.
Mr Churchill
I shall sing it again
Mr Dalton
Then I hope for the right hon. Gentleman’s full support in the proposals I am about to make. The strains of that song have long since died away. But much land has passed, since then, from private into public ownership and ‘t is the declared policy of the Labour Party that much more should so pass, and that the principle of the public ownership of land should be progressively applied.

As Mr Dalton explained,

There is still wonderful beauty to be found in Britain. Much of it has been spoiled and ruined beyond repair; but we still have a great wealth and variety of natural scenery in this land. The best that remains should surely become the heritage, not of a few private owners, but of all our people, and, above all, of the young and the fit, who shall find increased opportunities of health and happiness, companionship and recreation, in beautiful places. There is still a wonderful, incomparable beauty in Britain in the sunshine on the hills, the mist adrift across the moors, the wind on the downs, the deep peace of the woodlands the wash of the waves against the white, unconquerable cliffs which Hitler never scaled. There are beauty and history in all these places. It is surely fitting, in this proud moment of our history, when we are celebrating victory and deliverance from overwhelming evils and horrors, that we should make through this fund a thankoffering for victory, and a war memorial which, in the judgment of many, is better than any work of art in stone or bronze. I should like to think that through this Fund we shall dedicate some of the loveliest parts of this land to the memory of those who died in order that we might live in freedom, those who for our sake went down to the dark river, those for whom already “the trumpets have sounded on the other side.” Thus let this land of ours be dedicated to the memory of our dead, and to the use and enjoyment of the living for ever.

In Scotland, the Fund was used to acquire the Rowardennan Estate of which Cashel formed a part. The lodge was then gifted to the Scottish Youth Hostel Association and remains a fine Youth Hostel to this day accommodating thousands of walkers and holidaymakers every year. Loch Lomond was transferred to the National Trust for Scotland.

A Labour Government believed in the power of the state to enrich people’s lives. It acquired land for the nation.

Rowardennan was managed by the Forestry Commission but owned by the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Then in 1979, a Conservative Government led by Margaret Thatcher was elected. it believed that the state should not play such a big role in the economy and promptly set about a programme of privatisation. Much of the National Forest estate was sold to private interests including that part of the Rowardennan Estate known as Cashel Farm.

A Conservative Government believed in the power of the individual and private business to enrich people’s lives. it sold land and property owned by the nation.

Then in the lead up to the new millennium, the Milennium Forest for Scotland project, funded by the National Lottery was established to support the acquisition and establishment of woodlands to celebrate the new millennium. One such project that it supported was the acquisition of Cashel Estate. The new owner was the RSFS Forest Trust Company (now Cashel Forest Trust), a charity established by the Royal Scottish Forestry Society (RSFS) to run the estate and restore native woodland.

The Cashel Forest Trust has now decided that it is no longer in a position to continue owning the estate and that it should be sold to a “new better resourced custodian more capable of providing the investment required“.

The lotting plan of Cashel Estate

The estate is this now on the international property market. if recent trends are anything to by much of it will be acquired by financial interests from the City of London. Is this the future for land currently owned by charities in our National Parks – to be sold to the highest bidder with no oversight or regulation?

And so, over 70 years since the establishment of the National Land Fund, the estate is now to be sold once more. Here are the sales particulars (29Mb pdf) if you might be interested.

We know what positions past Labour and Conservative Governments took in relation to land in National Parks. Where stands the SNP?