William Astor

David Cameron famously forgot how many homes he owned — and now his stepfather-in-law can’t decide whether he owns a massive country estate on the Scottish island of Jura.

What’s more, the Astor family — whose hereditary peerage still allows Samantha Cameron’s stepfather William Astor to sit in the House of Lords — have their 18,736-acre Tarbert Estate owned via a company registered in a, errrr, Caribbean tax haven. The holidaying Cameron family enjoyed the charms of the island first hand as recently as 2013.

The code of conduct for peers clearly states that land or property holdings must be listed in the Register of Lords’ interests — but Astor only lists a partnership in a tenant of the island, ostensibly concerned with sporting pursuits:

Lord Astor register of interests

This apparent confusion was previously probed by Scottish landholdings expert Andy Wightman (@andywightman):

“I contacted the officials responsible for maintaining the Register to check that, in fact Mr Astor had no further interest in the estate. They said that the matter would be investigated. Meanwhile I emailed him directly and he replied that his children, Flora, William and James, owned the beneficial interest in the Bahamas company.

But if his children own the estate (via the Bahamas) why was Lord Astor’s recent Spectator column broadside against mooted SNP land reforms — described as a “Mugabe-style land grab” — bursting with references to his own landowner status?

“Are we estate owners now to be nationalised or made to feel so unwelcome that we have to sell up in a Mugabe-style land grab? It would be a pity, but we are accused of owning too much. Are we really going to have to defend owning so many acres of hill when 500 acres of hill may be only worth the same or even less than one acre of good farmland in the lowlands of Scotland?

He can’t have it both ways. Does he own the estate or not?

Perhaps the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards can help to jog his memory.

  1. Peter Ward says:

    You can’t expect these people to remember what they own can you? After all I have just found a selection box I mislayed at Christmas.

  2. This is what you’re up against. At the moment its difficult to confirm ownership. Even so, the huge number of very large estates across Scotland has stifled growth and landowners have been obstructive of development. Progressively tenants have been given more rights. It was not uncommon for whole villages, all the land and even the access to be owned by the landlord, unfortunately they have abused the position.

    Further rights are to be given to the tenants and this is the ‘land grab’ they fear. It’s not some kind of communist plot, merely an idea to end the feudal system currently in effect..

  3. Angelo Mazzeo says:

    They think the common person is stupid. Judging by the fact a number of them swallowed the lies peddled by the DM and The Scum, and reelected Shiny against their own interests, a lot of common people are, in fact, stupid. Which is, of course how they like it. Stupid people are easier to rule than well educated, thinking individuals who support each other.

  4. What do you do with several thousand acres of barren heather to make viable income?? Apart from short periods of time this land is free to roam for all citizens. Also I am not stupid Angelo Mazzeo.A fine Scottish name to be sure??

  5. These rich families should hang their heads in shame They have probably only paid a few millions in tax more than us and their companies have provided a miserable few thousand with employment over the generations Their money should be taken from them and given to the drug addicts and benefit scroungers who would really know how to use it for the greater good.

  6. Thomas Cochrane says:

    Why can’t any of these Tory toffs tell the truth. There lies are nearly allways found out.

  7. Ed Iglehart says:

    LAND & DEMOCRACY

    That Scotland has the most concentrated pattern of land ownership in the ‘free world’ is apparent to anyone who cares to look. It is also a fact that large portions of Scotland’s land are owned by corporations and other absentees.
    Scotland 19,068,631acres 100%
    Urban 585,627 acres 3%
    Rural 18,483,004 acres 97%

    Of the rural land, 2, 275,768 acres are in the ownership of public bodies
    and 16,207,236 are in the ownership of private bodies.
    Of this privately-owned rural land (Population 5,000,000 = over 3 acres per Scot):
    One quarter is owned by 66 landowners in estates of 30,700 acres and larger
    One third is owned by 120 landowners in estates of 21,000 acres and larger
    One half is owned by 343 landowners in estates of 7,500 acres and larger
    Two thirds is owned by 1252 landowners in estates of l ,200 acres and larger

    So two thirds of Scotland is owned by one four thousandth of the people!

    Data from Andy Wightman; Scotland, Land and Power, 1999
    http://home2.btconnect.com/tipiglen/property.html#Land

  8. Michael Kay says:

    If the legal owners are his children then it’s perfectly reasonable for him to refer to “we”, meaning the family, as the owners. Similarly, since lawyers can make the simplest things (like my own will) impossibly complicated, it’s perfectly reasonable for him to forget the exact technical details of how they have organized things – if he ever understood it in the first place. This is a journalist trying to create a story where there isn’t one. I wish they’d stick to just telling us the facts.

  9. Peter Wilson says:

    Ah, the old Ernest Saunders’ sudden onset of dementia ploy. Works a trick with the courts every time.

  10. The sooner we take it back the better .
    There must be some way to take it within old Scots law similar to compulsory acquisition like the UK done with certain villages during the war and moved the tenants out never to be allowed to return. My uncle had land compulsory purchased ( for a pittence) after the war supposedly to build homes but they never did . So why do we have to make exceptions for these greedy cheats that wouldn’t know a hard days work if you slapped them in the face with it.

  11. These people are just indescribable how can you possibly own land take giveaway from him along with everything else home owns and make him get a job

  12. Gary Joseph Rowlands says:

    you people are rude lol, by the way, where can i get a packet of these cnuts from? I’ve heard a lot about them.

  13. In my opinion the best option re large landowners and large estates would be to consider how they were first acquired and the legality of the acquisition. If acquired by what would now be considered dodgy legal claims (as often implied by Andy Wightman’s book The Poor Had No Lawyers) or simply as a ‘gift’ from the Crown, Pretender, Protector of the nation at the time then it should be acquired by the Government for the use of the people of Scotland with minimal compensation – after all, the current ‘owners’ have had decades if not centuries of benefit from land that most probably belonged initially to communities or clans, not individuals. In many instances as historians acknowledge people were often deemed less important than sheep or the assumed rights of individuals who could manipulate laws in their own interest.

    For those who live on the estates then they should be offered the option of becoming paid managers with employment rights the same as everyone else, including dismissal if not up to the task. This would soon put an end to any feudal sense of entitlement and open up new careers for those interested in land management..

  14. “Are we estate owners now to be nationalised or made to feel so unwelcome that we have to sell up in a Mugabe-style land grab?” – yes

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