Financial woes of Clan Donald Trust cast doubt on future of Skye estate

The Clan Donald Lands Trust — under fire in recent weeks for raising croft rents — has posted losses of £1.1 million over the last five years.

The figures published by the Scottish Charity Regulator paint a bleak picture of the financial health of the trust, which operates one of Skye’s best-known visitor attractions and is a major employer as well as a crofting landlord.

This week, in an open letter to the Free Press, a former trust employee has laid bare the extent of the problems facing an organisation which oversees a 20,000-acre estate, and some 10,500 acres of crofting townships, as well as the visitor centre and museum in the grounds of Armadale Castle.
Wendy Mitchell — who worked for the trust for over 10 years — has made a series of claims which cast long-term doubt over the future viability of the trust’s operations. Her letter suggests that:

  • Cash, mostly from wealthy American investors, has propped up the trust’s activities for years, but is now running out
  • Years of neglect has left estate properties crumbling — but local offers to redevelop them have been turned down
  • Important research facilties have been suspended, and jobs are under threat.

The publicly-available figures posted on the website of charity regulator the OSCR confirm that the trust’s expenditure has outweighed income over the past five years — with loses in 2010 alone totalling half a million pounds.

The total figure over the five-year period is some £1.1 million.

The Clan Donald Lands Trust was established, as a charity, in 1971 — taking ownership of the land following the death of the then Lord Macdonald. For many years it benefited from the support of American businessman Ellice McDonald, who died in 2013. Most of the trustees live abroad, and the CDLT have so far refused to make any public statement about the current concerns, despite Free Press efforts to make contact with them.

Last week the trust were criticised by Godfrey, the current Lord Macdonald, for failing to act in the local crofting interest.

Earlier this month letters, setting out details of rent rises of up to 2,000 per cent, were sent to around 100 croft tenants in the south Skye peninsula.
Lord Macdonald, himself a former Clan Donald trustee, has called for control of the croft land to be passed on to those who live and work on it.

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Former Clan Donald employee Wendy Mitchell has laid out the concerns at length in this week’s Free Press