AN "absentee" laird is facing fresh pressure to sell off his Scottish island to the community who live there – amid allegations he is ignoring their pleas.

Residents in Great Bernera, part of the Outer Hebrides, have been attempting to force Cyran de la Lanne-Mirrlees, who inherited the island in 2021, for the past eight years.

But their MSP has said they have been stonewalled by the landowner, whose grandfather – popularly thought to be the inspiration for the Bond villain Blofeld – bequeathed him the island on his death in 2012. The island was held in a trust until de la Lanne-Mirrlees turned 25.

Raising the issue in Parliament last week, SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said the Scottish Government should include measures in its planned Land Reform Bill to force “uncooperative” landowners to engage with residents.

In a question to the Rural Affairs Secretary, Allan said: “My constituents on the island of Great Bernera have for a number of years been fighting to buy their land from an uncooperative and entirely absent landowner, who often leaves correspondence unanswered for months on end or ignores it altogether.

“Can the Cabinet Secretary outline whether there will be any provisions in the upcoming bill to prevent absentee landowners from delaying matters in that way?”

In her response, Mairi Gougeon said the new legislation – which the Scottish Government wants to introduce before next summer – would strengthen obligations on landowners.

This could include putting into law the obligations outlined in the Government’s Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement, published last year.

The document sets out the Government’s aspirations for responsible land ownership, including for there to be “meaningful collaboration and community engagement in decisions about land”.

It also sets out the Government’s ambition for more “local communities” to have the “opportunity to own, lease or use buildings and land”.

'Obstructive and absent'

Residents of Great Bernera have waged an as-yet unsuccessful campaign since 2015 to buy the land from de la Lanne-Mirrlees.

His grandfather, Robin, bought the island in 1962 and lived in the Western Isles before his death in a Stornoway care home at the age of 87.

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The elder de la Lanne-Mirrlees was reportedly well-liked by locals, who are said to have referred to him as Count Robin, as a nod to his high social standing.

Robin worked at the College of Arms and held the office of Richmond Herald of Arms in Ordinary between 1962 and 1967.

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The institution is devoted to the granting of new coats of arms for families as well as the maintenance of registers of pedigree and ancestry.

His 27-year-old grandson is currently a student at Frankfurt School of Finance and Management and completed a three-month internship with Allianz Global Investors last year, according to his LinkedIn.

Those living on the island view him as aloof and their 2021 bid to launch a legal “hostile takeover” to secure ownership failed.

Those involved in the community campaign have said owning the island would boost the local economy.

Julia Higginbottom, one of those involved in the Great Bernera Community Development Trust, told The Telegraph earlier this year: “‘We all struggle to get people to come and do building, plumbing, electrics, so even if you just start with those, with some basic skills courses being run.”

The trust says previous attempts to buy out the island failed after “protracted negotiations” with the executor of the elder de La Lanne-Mirrlees’s will.

A higher bid was made in 2017, but this too was rejected, the trust says on its website.

Community buyout

Allan (below), who represents the Western Isles in the Scottish Parliament, told the Sunday National he would continue to support those living in the island in their efforts to purchase the estate.

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He said: “The Scottish Government has been instrumental in supporting community land buyouts across Scotland over the past two decades, both in terms of legislation and funding via the Scottish Land Fund.

“Two-thirds of people in the Western Isles now live on community-owned land – a fantastic achievement and a testament to the hard work and determination of our islands’ community trusts.

“Attempting a community land buyout is far from straightforward, particularly where the landowner is resolutely uncooperative.

“Part 3 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 allows for a ‘hostile’ buyout, but this has never successfully been utilised.

“I have been supporting my constituents in Great Bernera as they pursue all options – but long delays caused by their absentee landlord failing to respond to correspondence relating to their buyout efforts, as well as his refusal to accept reasonable offers has delayed progress.

“The new Land Reform Bill, due to be introduced to parliament in the year ahead, will strengthen the obligations on landowners to comply with the Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement 2022 as well as introducing compulsory land management plans.

“Communities should have the right to buy their estates, whenever they feel they can make the best decisions for its development and use it to help their local community to thrive.

“I will continue supporting my constituents in Great Bernera as they work towards bringing their island into community ownership.”

Cyran de la Lanne-Mirrlees was approached for comment.