A Scottish tycoon who wants to keep walkers off her estate has been accused of showing a lack of respect to a court.
Stagecoach boss Ann Gloag’s reasons for not turning up in person to the hearing into access on her land have been described as ‘derisory’.
The Ramblers’ Association counsel John Campbell QC said it was extraordinary that she had chosen not to attend a hearing she had herself brought. Her husband David McLeary confirmed that she was resident at her estate at Kinfauns Castle on the day he himself gave evidence.
Perth and Kinross Council’s legal representative Ailsa Wilson QC said: “Whilst a number of reasons were given to explain her non-attendance in court, it is at very least a matter of comment that a pursuer who seeks to claim her human rights are being infringed does not attend court to explain her position.”
Mrs Gloag wants to exempt part of the land around Kinfauns Castle, near Perth, from the provisions of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, which give the public the right to roam. The council is opposing her bid.
She claims allowing the public to walk close to her castle would increase the risk of robbery and kidnapping. Perth and Kinross Council’s legal representative Ms Wilson said: “There is no verifiable threat to the pursuer.”
Mr Campbell said it was extraordinary that Ann Gloag chose not to back her argument personally. He said: “She highlights her personal notoriety; her entertainment of VIP guests; her grandchildren and their time spent at Kinfauns Castle; her possession and ownership of valuables; the potential for burglary; criminal damage by single issue protestors; her exposure to paparazzi photographers and the potential for kidnap.
“Understandably, but incorrectly in my submission, she has approached the issue from her own self-interested point of view. Her approach is misconceived.
“Her absence brings her respect for the process into sharp focus and one is left overall, and with regret, with an impression of a pursuer accustomed to having her own way, but being unprepared to face up to questions about her supposed justification.”
Mrs Gloag’s representative, Mike Jones QC, said the local authority was trying to dictate how his client used her grounds. The court should take into account her privacy and safety requirements.
He said: “She is entitled to take measures to exclude uninvited strangers from land in her ownership.”
The statements from each side come in written submissions to Sheriff Michael Fletcher. Ms Wilson said in her statement that the case has much wider significance.
She said: “There is a much wider public interest at the heart of these proceedings that should not be allowed to be masked by an excess of evidence on Mrs Gloag’s fears.
“We are concerned at the precedent which may be established from this judicial determination regarding policy grounds attached to substantial country dwellings.”
Perth and Kinross Council wants Mrs Gloag to move a two-metre fence, for which she gained retrospective planning permission, closer to the house. The council is backed by the Ramblers’ Association.
Sheriff Fletcher’s decision is expected in writing later in the year.