Local MSP, Michael Russell, has today tabled a motion in Parliament to support the ‘I Heart Castle Toward Campaign’.

Motion Text: I Heart Castle Toward Campaign

That the Parliament notes the launch of the campaign, I Heart Castle Toward; understands that this has brought together a range of talented and creative individuals, all of whom are aware of the profound and inspirational effect that the castle has had on the generations of young people who were given the opportunity to express themselves in that special place; believes that the campaign hopes to persuade Argyll and Bute Council to halt the sale process to an individual and to open negotiations regarding the purchase of the building with this wider grouping, which seeks to both re-establish it as a centre of excellence for creative education and to involve the community that has worked hard to purchase the property, and urges the leadership of the council to act accordingly and listen to what it believes is the vast majority in and outwith the area who want to see the castle put to these uses.


“Stop the Sale” says Russell

Argyll & Bute MSP Michael Russell has welcomed the plea to Argyll & Bute Council regarding the future of Castle  Toward which has come today from a group of Scottish celebrities all of whom share a passion for the place and the potential which the building has to become, once again, a centre for artistic and creative excellence for young people.

Commenting on the news story which has appeared today in the national and local press on the matter Mr Russell said:

“This is an exciting and welcome development which comes at the eleventh hour given that the Council still seems determined to hand the building over to a commercial developer at the end of the month.

This distinguished and exciting group includes individuals with tremendous creative reputations.   All of them testify to the importance of Castle Toward to their lives and careers and they want others to be able to have the life changing experiences that they experienced there.

There is now a stark reality which the Council  has to accept.  The only people who want to sell this iconic building to a private sector developer are the 23 administration Councillors in Kilmory  , backed up by their senior management.

Everyone else – the community,the opposition in the Council, the MP and MSP, senior members of all political parties at national level , the Scottish Government and now the cream of Scotland’s creative talent are all united in their desire to see another  solution .

Unless Council Leader Dick Walsh believes there is some vast conspiracy afoot then surely even he has to accept that he is out of step with the overwhelming  majority .    I therefore appeal to him to see sense and stop the sale to allow a better solution to be implemented. “

Argyll & Bute MSP Michael Russell has written to Argyll & Bute Council Chief Executive Sally Loudon regarding the sale of Castle Toward.

An offer for the Castle – which was the subject of a failed community bid some months ago – was accepted in principle by the Council at its full meeting last Thursday.   However  information about the offer , including the name of the bidders, was not released by the Council allegedly at the insistence of the prospective purchasers, although they commented on the record  to the press the next day.

Details of the bid are now emerging and Mr Russell has indicated he believes they raise very significant questions that require answers.

In his email to Ms Loudon Mr Russell calls for an independent inquiry into the sale of the Castle and asks the Council to back him in seeking the appointment of an individual to do so by the Government.   He then goes on to raise ten questions that he believes that Council should answer at an early date.  The questions are appended below.

Commenting on the email, Mr Russell said :

“This issue won’t go away.   Whilst everybody wants the Castle to be occupied and used it is important that the community and local voters understand what process is being followed .  In particular they need to know that there were no discussions with another purchaser during the period that the buyout was being attempted  , hat the price obtained was well in excess of what they offered and that the proposals are coherent and achievable. 

There are some doubts on all those issues and there are also concerns that the way in which this new private bid was considered was and remains very different from the way their bid was treated.   

I hope the Council will be completely open about these matters but the secrecy surrounding the offer – now seem to be utterly necessary – does not bode well.   Argyll & Bute makes use of  “exempt items” on its agendas very frequently and these prevent public scrutiny and press reporting.   They should be the limited exception rather than the increasingly frequent rule, a matter I and others have raised with Audit Scotland”


The questions asked by Mr Russell are as follows:

1) When did the prospective purchasers first approach the Council ?
2) What discussions did the Council have with the prospective purchasers prior to the end of the Community Bid in February?
3) Did any Councillor or official name the prospective purchasers and their company tor councillors in  January and/or February when asked about alternative bids should the community bid fail ?
4) Why did the leader of the Council affirm at the time of the community bid that the property would not be sold for less than the valuation when the property is now being sold for less than the valuation?
5) Given that the purchase price of £1.51 million is divided into three parts, the first of which (£1.1 million) is due on the 30th of September will the council confirm that it did not offer the community a chance to match that price and why it did not do so ?
6) Will the Council confirm the total cost to the Council since the failed community purchase concluded regarding security and maintenance up to 30th September and indicate how far ,if at all, that sum added to the community offer made in February differs from the sum due on 30th September.
7) Will the Council publish the terms under which the balance of the purchase price will be due and indicate what the Council will have to do to secure that balance and within what timescale.
8) Will the Council indicate what due diligence was undertaken on the bid from the prospective purchasers and in particular what assurances and guarantees were given regarding the eventual expenditure of £28 million on developing the site as estimated by the developers and quoted in the report to the Council?
9) Will the Council indicate what advice was given to Councillors regarding the sources of funding for the bid by the prospective purchasers given that , for the community bid, much adverse comment was made by officials regarding the communities heavy dependence on public funds ?
10) What external assessment of the bid by the prospective purchasers was either offered by the developers or sought by the Council  given that the community bid was positively assessed by HIE , the Scottish Government and the Scottish Land Fund ?


View my contribution to the Stage 3 debate on the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill, pointing out how my amendments can help communities who face obstructions from local authorities in asset transfer. These amendments are designed to ensure that there can be no repeat of the situation faced by the community of South Cowal, whose attempts to purchase Castle Toward were thwarted by Argyll and Bute Council.


Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell has today (Wednesday 17th June) welcomed the passage of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill.

The legislation seeks to extend community ownership of land by allowing communities to buy abandoned or derelict land, as well as extending the Community Right to Buy in rural areas.

The legislation also contains new provisions for community groups to appeal to Scottish Ministers if a local authority refuses to sell an asset to the community. These provisions will ensure that local authorities must engage constructively with community groups who wish to purchase assets covered by local authority asset transfer regulations.

These provisions resulted from amendments to the legislation, lodged at Stage 2 by Mr Russell, in response to Argyll and Bute Council’s handling of the sale of Castle Toward, in which the Council blocked a credible bid from the South Cowal Community Development Company, backed by the Scottish Land Fund, to purchase Castle Toward.

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“The Community Empowerment Bill should be given a chance to work for the people of South Cowal”

Following last Tuesday’s meeting between representatives of the South Cowal Community and the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities, and Pensioner’s Rights, Alex Neil, Argyll & Bute MSP Michael Russell has taken a new initiative and written to Council Leader Dick Walsh, asking him to suspend the sale of Castle Toward until the new Community Empowerment Bill is fully enacted.

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Save Castle Toward


Michael Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, today (Tuesday 24th March) joined representatives from the Save Castle Toward Community Supporters Group (SCTCSG) to meet with Alex Neil, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights, and outline their concerns about the conduct of the Castle Toward sale by Argyll and Bute Council.

During the meeting, the group highlighted the “unfinished business” of the South Cowal Community Development Company (SCCDC)’s bid to buy Castle Toward from Argyll and Bute Council, and Audit Scotland’s slow progress in tackling the “anti-democratic” actions of Argyll and Bute Council in blocking the bid. Furthermore, Mr Neil was presented with a petition of 10,000 signatures in support of the community purchase of Castle Toward.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Russell commented:

“I was delighted to welcome representatives of SCTCSG to meet with the Cabinet Secretary today. I am pleased that he has recognised the need for democratic renewal in communities, which will be greatly enhanced when the Community Empowerment Bill becomes law.
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The MSP for Argyll & Bute Michael Russell has welcomed the decision of the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government Committee to back – unanimously – his amendments to the Community Empowerment Bill presently at its second stage in the Parliament. These amendments ensure that no local authority can ever again treat a community with the contempt shown by Argyll & Bute Council when it refused to sell Castle Toward to the South Cowal community last month.

Commenting after the meeting, Mr Russell said:

“I have made it clear for some time that I would be seeking means to outlaw the type of obstructive, dog in the manger attitude shown by Argyll & Bute Council over the sale of Castle Toward. My amendments passed today create a new right for communities to appeal to Ministers if a local authority fails to agree a price with a community or acts in a way contrary to the new community asset transfer rules which the Scottish Government is now bringing in.

“I was delighted that these amendments were backed unanimously by the committee which includes Labour & Tory members, despite an attempt by COSLA – the group that represents many of Scotland’s local councils including Argyll & Bute – to derail the process with a briefing against the amendments which asserted that they were “offensive to local government”.

“In reality it was deeply offensive to my constituents that COSLA made such a ham fisted attempt to defend the actions of Dick Walsh and his administration and it is much to the credit of the committee members that they paid no attention to it.

“As the Government has also backed these amendments they are certain to become law when he Community Empowerment Bill completes its Parliamentary passage next month. I only regret that they could not be made retrospective, for that they would have undone the great wrong that the current Argyll & Bute administration has done to South Cowal and its community.”

MSP warns prospective purchasers of Castle Toward to “be aware of the history and the community”

Argyll and Bute MSP for Argyll & Bute, Michael Russell has responded to a further email to him from Council leader Dick Walsh about Castle Toward by seeking a meeting with the full administration to discuss the issue and the need for positive engagement on the many problems facing the area.

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