IT is one of the remotest parts of Scotland that has suffered years of depopulation. But a small Highland community has surprisingly rejected the chance to buy a stunning estate and re-populate it – even though it had the last minute offer of £1 million from a mystery millionaire.

Killundine Estate in Morvern is a stunning but uninhabited wilderness, but the people’s purchase was facing an uphill battle to raise £1.45m by today.

Locals attempting to buy the land, which stretch from the shores of the Sound of Mull to more than 1,800 feet at the summit of Sithean na Raplaich, looking over the Barr River and Loch Teacuis, had been awarded £1m by the Scottish Land Fund, but faced the big shortfall.

They want to stop more properties in the area being turned into holiday homes. But they faced a race against time to find the money.

However, a ballot of the surrounding community yesterday voted 142 to 103 against the buyout – meaning the deal fell through.

Alasdair Firth, from Morvern Community Woodlands, the group behind the project, said he had been “hopeful” it would raise the £2.45m purchase price by the deadline, but later admitted he was “disappointed” at the ballot vote.

“We will not be taking the purchase forward. We were in negotiation with a donor who had offered around £1m and we were hopeful he would make up the shortfall on the remaining amount of the purchase price by means of a loan.

“We have also had the offer from another donor to match every £1 raised through our crowdfunder up to a total of £100,000.

“It’s very hard for people who live here to afford to buy a house. It’s difficult for people to compete with this house market, where prices are so high.

“There’s a critical mass of people that you need to have all the services the community wants to have and need, and we are getting to a point where we are losing that.

“The estate could be used by local people to live in. We want all these buildings redeveloped, with people living and working. We hope the people that are here and want to stay can stay.”

With fewer families arriving, the school roll has dropped in recent years. Where it once stood at 25, this year only 11 children will attend.

Keith Adams, Lochaline Primary School head teacher, said: “We had a family in recently, the first we’ve had into the area for two or three years – it used to be revolving doors here.

“That’s stopped and I can only put that down to the affordable housing.

“I always see the school as the heart of the community and we try to be that, so if the school becomes smaller and smaller, then the heart of the community becomes smaller.”

Jeremy Leggett, former Greenpeace director and solar power entrepreneur, donated £17,000 towards the potential purchase of Killundine.

He recently bought Bunloit Estate, near Loch Ness, to pursue his “wildland” vision and create local jobs.

He has suggested non-Scots who buy large properties and land should pay a supplementary tax to directly support communities such as Morvern in their land ownership aims.

The main hold-up in the buyout had been a bureaucratic delay in awarding buyout group MCW charitable status – which would trigger a number of potential funding sources. The group only became a charity this week.

The MCW’s £2.7m bid to the Scottish Land Fund also included money to pay administration and development costs on top of the estate purchase price.

The 6000-acre estate is owned by brother and sister Roderick and Althea Lauder. Their family has run it for around 50 years.

It is now likely to go on the open market.

Veronique Walraven, chairwoman of MCW, said previously: “Morvern is a fragile community with an ageing population and a falling school roll.

Among other things, our plans for Killundine will bring business and housing prospects for young families.”

Killundine Estate is made up of hill ground that supports grazing for deer, pastures, conifer plantation and ancient semi-natural Atlantic hazel woodland.

MCW’s plans included a proposal to create crofts, as well as harvesting timber, restoring estate buildings, regenerating native woodland and restoring peatlands.