It would be ‘madness’ living in Kinfauns Castle without its controversial perimeter fence.
That’s the view of Stagecoach millionairess Ann Gloag’s husband David McCleary, who said there had recently been a foiled attempt to steal treasures from the Perthshire mansion.
Businessman Mr McCleary was giving evidence in the resumed hearing into Mrs Gloag’s attempt to exclude the public from her estate under Scotland’s right-to-roam legislation. She is the first landowner to try to be exempted from the provisions of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.
The Perth hearing, before Sheriff Michael Fletcher, was told by Mrs Gloag’s husband that ‘a known criminal’ had approached member of staff in a nightclub asking about paintings in the castle. Mr McCleary, not a man to shy away from a mixed metaphor, said: “Police said there was an embryo plot to steal items, which was nipped in the bud.”
The court has been given a glimpse of life behind the gates and barbed-wire fence at Kinfauns. Ann Gloag and her husband need to keep hoi-polloi at bay because they regularly entertain royalty, foreign guests and people from the film industry. He told the hearing they suffer from press intrusion. He said: “They hang around the gates and use long-range cameras, taking pictures and questioning staff.”
He also revealed Mrs Gloag’s elderly father wanders off within the grounds. He said: “We have lost him on several occasions when he goes out on what we call walkabout, but we have found him in the garden or various areas of the house.”
In addition, he said, the fence helps keep the family’s 12 grandchildren safe. Mr McCleary said: “It’s vital to have this fence as we have the third busiest road in Scotland only 50 yards away and we also have a busy railway line and the River Tay nearby.”
Ian McCall, of the Ramblers’ Association Scotland, said outside the court: “Most of the reasons Mr McCleary gave in court seem spurious. There are plenty of people living in the centre of cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow who have valuables, but don’t need an exclusion zone.
“People like Mohammed al-Fayed, who has an estate in Ross-shire, and the Queen at Balmoral, both of whom are far wealthier than Ann Gloag, allow people to walk through their land and seem to manage fairly well.
Ann Gloag is one of the wealthiest women in Scotland. Her Stagecoach company runs more than 7,000 buses and coaches as well as rail services and public transport in North America.
The hearing continues.