You may recall back in March we blogged about the RSPB’s baffling decision to hold their inaugral Scottish Birdfair at Hopetoun House. This decision raised eyebrows (see here and here) due to the alleged connection between Hopetoun Estate and the ‘notorious’ Leadhills Estate.
At the time, the RSPB defended their choice of venue by 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. It is the American sporting tenants on Leadhills Estate, through a UK sporting agent, who employ and manage the land and the employees at this site, and who are therefore ultimately responsible with ensuring that birds of prey are protected on this land. We accept that Hopetoun Estate do not condone any illegal practices on their land.”
A spokesperson for the Earl of Hopetoun is reported to have said this:
“The Earl of Hopetoun’s position on wildlife crime is unequivocal. He has constantly condemned any such activity. 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“.
Those last two sentences were designed to leave us in no doubt. We were barking up the wrong tree. Or were we?
We’ve since received a copy of a lease agreement made between the Leadhills Estate landlords (Andrew Victor Arthur Charles Hope, Earl of Hopetoun and his father Adrian John Charles Hope, Marquess of Linlithgow) and the sporting tenants (via the agency Leadhills Sporting Limited). The information provided in this lease suggests that the management of the Leadhills Estate grouse moor is perhaps not quite as straightforward as some have claimed.
Before we discuss the lease content, readers should be made aware that this particular lease may not accurately reflect the content of the current lease. The lease we’re about to discuss relates to a 20-year agreement (between Hopetoun & Leadhills Sporting Ltd) running from 2003 to 2023. However, five years into the lease in 2008, it was reported that the sporting rights at Leadhills were being sold on (see here). We understand that the current lease is for 16-years duration and is still held by Leadhills Sporting Ltd, albeit with a personnel change at Leadhills Sporting Ltd – Edward Dashwood & Mark Osborne, along with several others, had all resigned from the company by July 2008, and at least two new Directors were appointed in the same month. The big question is, was the content of the lease that we’re about to discuss carried over to the new tenants, or was the content considerably changed for the new tenants? This is important, because if the content wasn’t changed and is still current, then it looks like somebody might have been telling porky pies about the role of Hopetoun in the sporting management of Leadhills grouse moor. And we’re not talking those mini pork pies that you get in packs of six in the posh supermarkets. We’re talking big fat pork pies you get in your local butchers shop.
For Part 2, click here