Unravelling the ‘relationship’ between Hopetoun and Leadhills Estates

Last week we blogged about the recent article in The Scotsman and on the Deadline News website, relating to criticism of the RSPB for deciding to hold their inaugural Scottish Birdfair at Hopetoun House (see here).

To begin with, readers should be clear that the location of the Scottish Bird Fair is Hopetoun House, in West Lothian, near Edinburgh. Hopetoun House is the historical family seat of the Hopetoun family (see here) and is home to the current Earl of Hopetoun (Andrew, who is also a Director of Scottish Land & Estates – see here). According to his SLE profile, Andrew is Chairman of Hopetoun Estates and Deputy Chairman of the Hopetoun House Preservation Trust, and, “These two organisations manage Hopetoun House and its related estates, mostly at Hopetoun near Edinburgh and around Leadhills in the Scottish Borders” [South Lanarkshire].

We are not aware of any alleged raptor persecution incidents taking place at Hopetoun House or its surrounding [West Lothian] landholdings and indeed, raptors such as buzzards and tawny owls are reportedly resident in the grounds of Hopetoun House and on the surrounding estate.

However, we believe that the criticism of the RSPB’s decision to hold their bird fair at Hopetoun House was not in relation to Hopetoun House per se, but rather it was probably in relation to the Hopetoun Estate’s alleged connection with Leadhills Estate in South Lanarkshire.

Leadhills Estate, as many readers will be aware, has been at the centre of dozens of allegations of raptor persecution (e.g. see here), and several gamekeepers there have been found guilty of wildlife crime offences (e.g. see here and here). Leadhills Estate is situated on land that is owned (but apparently not managed) by Hopetoun Estates and, if you believe the RSPB and the Earl of Hopetoun, that is the full extent of the relationship, as Leadhills Estate is reportedly let on a long sporting lease.

After the original article (criticising the RSPB) was published in The Scotsman, various statements were made by, and on behalf of, both the RSPB and the Earl of Hopetoun, to clarify the relationship between Hopetoun Estates and Leadhills Estate (see here and here). In essence, both were keen to highlight that Hopetoun Estates has nothing whatsoever to do with the management of Leadhills Estate and therefore there should not be an ‘issue’ about the RSPB holding its bird fair on land managed by Hopetoun Estates. The most significant comment, made by an un-named spokesperson for the Earl of Hopetoun, was:

More importantly, Hopetoun Estate has no role whatsoever in the management of Leadhills Estate. Leadhills Estate is run on a sporting lease completely separately and there is no connection between Hopetoun Estate and the sporting management of Leadhills Estate”.

This is a very interesting statement, mainly because it seeks to put distance between Hopetoun Estates and Leadhills Estate. However, if “Hopetoun Estate has no role whatsoever in the management of Leadhills Estate“, then how do Hopetoun Estates explain that they were one of the formal objectors to South Lanarkshire Council’s proposed ‘Core Paths Plan’ in January 2011, in which they objected to a proposed footpath network across a working grouse moor on Leadhills Estate? Here is a PDF of their objection statement: Hopetoun Estates objection statement

Looking at some of the comments made in the Hopetoun Estates’ objection statement, it would appear that this stated separation (between Hopetoun Estates and Leadhills Estate) may not be quite as clear cut as Hopetoun Estate and the RSPB would like us to believe. Of particular relevance are the comments made in section Q8, reproduced here:

Our [Hopetoun Estates] particular concerns include potential detriment to our farming and sporting interests due to dogs and the disruption they cause to birds, wildlife and sheep (especially at lambing and hatching). We are concerned about the implications of Health & Safety as landowner due to the actions we and/or our tenants carry out over the Estate including the use of vehicles and firearms. Walkers, cyclists and horse-riders will inevitably be in conflict with the use of quad bikes, 4x4s etc – the speed issue alone, coupled with the rugged terrain, blind summits, corners etc. offers significant cause for concern. Further to this, there may be times (shoot days, or when certain land management actions are being carried out) when we would require the closure of the Core Paths for H&S reasons. We are concerned about the cost implications to ourselves of undertaking such a closure and one would have to provide the manpower to police such closures during shoot days. Maintenance of the tracks are also a concern as horses and bikes can significantly break up the surface of the tracks which allows water to get into the body of the track and cause significant damage potentially making the track impassable for our Estate vehicles”.


Now, Hopetoun Estates were one of several formal objectors to the Core Paths Plan (see here). Others of interest here include Leadhills Sporting Ltd (sporting agents with land management responsibilities at Leadhills Estate – see here); Allershaw Farming Ltd (which is listed elsewhere as a company involved with ‘Hunting, Trapping & Game Propagation and Related Service Activities’ and whose two listed directors just happen to have exactly the same names as the two directors listed at Leadhills Sporting Ltd – imagine the coincidence of that!); and Lord Linlithgow’s Accumulation Trust, whose address on the objection statement is given as ‘Hopetoun Estates Office, West Lothian’!!

What is striking about all four of these objections is the similarity of (most of) the paths they object to, and the reasons they provide for their objections.

Here are the four PDFs – compare and contrast and draw your own conclusions:

Hopetoun Estates objection statement

Leadhills Sporting Ltd objection statement

Allershaw Farming Ltd objection statement

Lord Linlithgows Accumulation Trust objection statement

Does anybody still think that “Hopetoun Estate has no role whatsoever in the management of Leadhills Estate” ?

Naturally, we’d be happy to publish any clarifications that Hopetoun Estates may care to provide.

12 thoughts on “Unravelling the ‘relationship’ between Hopetoun and Leadhills Estates”

  1. Major own- goal by the RSPB, which can be classed under the category of ‘what were they thinking’ It is entirely possible, of course, that Hopetoun have offered their backing to other RSPB projects, and that they have weighed up the pros and cons of supping with the devil. On the other hand, it is equally possible that they have been outrageously naive.

  2. This looks like a great piece of work by RPS. Well done and thanks.

    The relationship between the various Hopetoun interests may not pass muster as vicarious liability, but you’d have to be pretty naive to accept the separation of businesses as described by Hopetoun Estates.

    Anyone else reckon the epithet ‘Housden of the Hirsel’ is looking more apt every day?

  3. It beggars belief that RSPB would use this venue for their first annual bird fair.
    Scotland already has a badly tarnished reputation as the sick man of Europe where illegal raptor persecution is concerned and this can only exacerbate that dubious title.
    It would appear that Hopetoun isn’t involved with Leadhills Estate when it comes to raptor persecution but is when it involves an appeal against a footpath. Clear as mud! I wonder who’s name is on the single farm payment cheque?
    It seems quite incredible that RSPB are happy to endorse this event saying “We understand that there is a clear separation between land managed in hand by Hopetoun Estate in West Lothian, and the Leadhills Estate, which is let on a long lease to American tenants”
    Call me naive but I thought vicarious liability was all about making landowners responsible for what happens on their land.

    Disgraceful double standards by RSPB, I for one will not be attending this event.

    Ronnie Graham

  4. I was thinking of going to this the first annual bird fair in Scotland, indeed was looking forward to it. Not now!!!! I I have commented here and on other sites against persecution of Raptors, now I find the R.S.P.B working with the owners, “however disguised by legalities” of one the worst Scottish estates for persecution. No I won’t be going, think this could prove very embarrassing for the R.S.P.B. and yes I am a member. Supping with the Devil or naive, could well be, but whatever it is, it looks very bad. The R.S.P.B. could lose members through this, but then again, maybe it’s the money they will make, that is there main concern.

  5. Well done RPS for bringing this disgrace to our attention.
    I live in Edinburgh and after hearing about this Birdfair through my SOC membership, I was quite looking forward to visiting Hopetoun House, attending this event and meeting old friends.
    After reading of the murky connection between Hopetoun House and the infamous Leadhills Estate, first in The Scotsman newspaper and later on this site, I will be staying well away and will urge other like minded raptor enthusiasts to take similar action.
    I have spent most of my life studying raptors and have seen the effect of illegal persecution first hand. I feel very strongly that it would be immoral for me to have anything to do with this fair and in this case I will vote with my feet.
    I echo Mr Love’s prediction that the RSPB will lose membership through their short sighted decision to hold their fair at this venue. Indeed my wife and I will not be renewing our membership as we can only assume this organisation have “lost the plot”

    Purple Heather

  6. I for one will not be going to the bird fair either, the persecution has been going on in this area for over 20years [allegedly] long before this new syndicate took over. I may even stop my yearly subscription to the RSPB. It is a utter disgrace to hold the the event at hopetoun. You should be ashamed RSPB.

  7. The RSPB is again not living up to it’s subscription – it seems to be losing the plot with a lot of things and especially with this latest piece of nonsense. Sometimes organisations (however well meaning) become too big and commercially focussed. No doubt there was some jobsworth – or more probably a commitee – in the society that thought Houptoun was a suitable venue and what’s more the pity, didn’t know – or care – about the their obvious connection with the notorious Leadhills site. And yes, I am a member……………at the moment.


  8. If you go onto the Bird Fair web site you will see that it is not only the R.S.P.B. that is involved with the fair. Both the S.O.C. and the B.T.O. are named as contributing, as are few “famous names in birding and wildlife circles” you may be surprised by who.

  9. This whole issue beggars belief !

    Firstly to hold the event at a venue I consider to be associated with some of Scotland worse criminal activity involving wildlife persecution: poisoning, shooting etc etc etc the list goes back over decades!

    Secondly RSPB clearly attempting to save their skin by using the defence ‘ its nothing to do with the owner’. Of all people RSPB know this old chestnut is complete rubbish and could be potentially damaging to future criminal cases.

    RSPB hang your heads in shame and do the decent thing……tell the truth.

    I will definitely will not be attending and putting money into the pockets of an estate with such an appalling history and would ask others to do the same.

  10. Has anybody actually thought that since new owners (and good headkeepers) took over, a whole lot more villagers have been telling of seeing more raptors??? I think certain narrow minded people should take a good look at the good this estate has done for birds ON THIS ESTATE

    1. Whoever, actually no. People who live in Leadhills and Wanlockhead have only told me about a LACK of raptors, buzzards being trapped in crow cages, dippers being killed in log traps and being constantly harassed by keepers when walking through Leadhills estate. This harassment can be anything from being watched through the telescopic sight of a rifle to having their car blocked in by the keeper’s landrovers.


    2. to whoever, you are correct there are raptors in the area but they keep disappearing esp when they attempt to start nest building and holding territory’s. strange that. I guess another bumper year for the grouse shooting…………….

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