A Scottish millionaire has secured a secret agreement on costs following her successful land-access battle.
Stagecoach bus magnate Ann Gloag won the right to exclude the public from parts of her Kinfauns Castle estate, despite the passing of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act which granted right-to-roam rights across the country.
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Mrs Gloag was awarded costs against the Ramblers’ Association (RA) and Perth and Kinross Council. She claimed £161,000 in legal fees and her lawyers have reached a settlement with the two other parties, but insisted on a confidentiality clause. The council confirmed an agreement was reached last month but refused to discuss details.
It is not clear whether Mrs Gloag managed to secure the full amount. She is rated the second richest woman in Scotland.
RA Scottish convenor Alison Mitchell said: “Our fear is that such exceptionally high expenses claims will deter local authorities, local communities, individuals and voluntary organisations from taking on access court cases in the future.”
The RA and Perth and Kinross Council, which jointly brought the case with the association, had limited their own costs to £30,000 each. Ms Mitchell said the RA would be pressing for legislation in the Scottish Parliament to protect bodies such as the Ramblers and small authorities, which cannot afford such huge legal bills.
Launching an appeal among its members for a legal fund to help fight cases such as the Gloag hearing, Ms Mitchell said: “Mrs Gloag was perfectly entitled to seek a court determination of the extent of access rights at Kinfauns.
“Nevertheless I doubt if anyone with any knowledge of the land reform legislation would have anticipated that the council and Ramblers would be faced with this scale of costs having lost the case, especially as we were acting in the public interest in presenting the counterarguments to Mrs Gloag’s case.
“As we move on from the Kinfauns situation we hope that politicians can be persuaded to address the cost issue, perhaps through new legislation which makes each party solely responsible for its own costs in such cases. Otherwise court action to resolve access disputes will only be available to the rich.”
The RA is also facing potentially crippling costs in challenging American multi-millionaire Donald Trump’s plans for a huge golfing resort in an environmentally sensitive part of the Aberdeenshire coast.