THE prospective sale of a Scottish castle to a multimillionaire Brexiteer represents an “existential threat” to the community in the area, it has been warned.

It comes as Kinloch Castle on the Isle of Rum – which has around 40 inhabitants – is up for sale, with Brexit Party donor Jeremy Hosking in negotiations to purchase it.

As it stands the castle, along with much of the Small Isle, is owned by the government agency NatureScot. It said that Hosking – who is reportedly worth some £375 million – aimed “for a charitable trust to restore and conserve Kinloch Castle (below) and its contents, and create and run a hotel business”.

READ MORE: I live on Rum. Here's why its iconic castle should not be sold to one rich man

The National: Kinloch Castle  PHOTO Copyright Historic Environment Scotland.

The agency has also said it does not have the resources to upkeep the castle, which has become a drain on its funding. It said there is an option to let it “decline and ruin”, warning this will “still come at a cost to the public purse of around £1m”.

But locals say there are more options on the table than the binary choice of letting it fall to ruin or selling it to Hosking.

“The Kinloch Castle era on Rum was a dark one,” long-term resident and director of Rum Enterprise Fliss Fraser writes in The National. “The people were in service to the house, rather than the other way around. This cannot be allowed to happen again.”

Fraser argues that one multi-millionaire landowner would wield excessive power over local residents if they were allowed to take control of the castle.

READ MORE: Michael Russell: Allowing Kinloch Castle to fall away would be best idea

She says that while heritage and restoration are key issues – and areas in which Hosking has experience – they are not the only thing to consider. Community empowerment, land reform, the environment, net zero, and sustainability should also be taken into account, Fraser says.

“We are navigating new ground trying to find a solution that meets these requirements, rather than one which is solely met by a single individual with deep pockets.

“In terms of sustainability, Kinloch Castle just isn’t – unless it depends upon extreme wealth.”

The sale of the castle was put on hold in November, with Scottish minister Lorna Slater saying the Government was keen to fund a solution that eased the funding burden on NatureScot and also worked for Rum locals.

The Isle of Rum Community Trust (IRCT), of which Fraser is a former director, is opposed to the sale, previously calling for “detailed and legally binding agreements in place to protect the community”.

The IRCT has raised concerns that Hosking’s plans for the castle would “effectively split [Kinloch] village in two”, a village which the trust owns. They also warned that the Brexiteer wanted to take ownership of Rum’s off-grid power supply, but NatureScot have said this is not part of the proposed deal.

Another group, Kinloch Castle Friends Association, is supporting the sale. However, they are not based on the island, with an address on the group’s website located in Bolton.

The castle has a chequered history, having been constructed by George Bullough, the playboy son of textile magnate John Bullough, from 1897-1900. His father had bought the island as a hunting estate in 1888.

Rum had been inhabited since ancient times but saw its population of some 400 cleared out to make room for sheep in the early 1800s. After the sheep farm went bust, it was sold to the Conservative politician James Gascoyne-Cecil in 1845. It was Gascoyne-Cecil who sold it to Bullough.

Fraser has raised concerns that a sale to Hosking could see similar aristocratic-style ownership of the island, saying that locals “cannot compete with the power that many millions of pounds bring with it”.

The English businessman was ranked 351 on the Sunday Times Rich List in 2019. He has donated to the Tories, to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, and millions to Laurence Fox’s Reclaim Party.

A NatureScot spokesperson said: “Discussions on the sale of Kinloch Castle are ongoing with all parties. We will continue to work constructively with the community to deliver new arrangements for the castle and provide long-term benefits to the Isle of Rum.”