Biodiversity minister Lorna Slater has said she had "very little involvement" in the collapsed sale of a crumbling A-listed Hebridean castle to a multi-millionaire Tory donor.

Kinloch Castle on the Inner Hebridean island of Rum was one of the most luxurious private residences of its time upon completion in 1900.

It has been owned by heritage body Nature Scot since 1957 and operated as a hostel until 2015 before it was closed and it is now in need of around £10million of repairs.

Jeremy Hosking, a city financier and former Conservative Party donor, was in late-stage negotiations to buy the 19th-century pile and put it into the hands of a trust last year before he pulled out of the deal in March last year.

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Mr Hosking accused the Scottish Green of "crushing a conservation project" and blamed Ms Slater for his decision to pull out of the buyout, describing it as a "horrible process". 

It was reported that the minister for biodiversity, paused the sale in November after a number of concerns were made by islanders, including access to land surrounding the castle.

The Herald: Scottish government minister Lorna Slater is being asked to give an update to Holyrood on the

However, in a letter to Highland MSP Kate Forbes Ms Slater said she had "very little involvement in the previous proposed sale, positive or negative".

She said the Scottish Government remains committed to securing a sustainable future for Kinloch Castle but said any sale "should be considered carefully as the outcome will have a major impact on a small island community".

She has commissioned a Delphi study to garner the views of islanders and heritage group Kinloch Castle Friends Association will also be consulted.

Ewan Macdonald chairman of the association, said: "We have absolutely no doubt that Kinloch Castle could be a huge asset to the small isles.

"You could have nature tourism, marine tourism, sailing, guided walking tours.

"We know there is quite a lot of interest in it and new people are popping up all the time but not from the perspective of purchasing it.

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"It does need a lot of work and what we had was a wealthy multi-millionaire, a self-made man with Highland connections who had spent half his time in Strontian and wanted to do some good and I think that's what we need. Someone with money who will get it restored.

"It needs to be run as a commercial business. Our business plan showed that it could be self-sufficient once it is restored properly."

He said visitor numbers on Rum were "twice as high as they are now" when the castle was in use because it could sleep 50 and the island is short of accommodation.


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"Meanwhile Eigg and Muck and Canna have had a 50% increase in their visitor numbers,"he said.

"When they closed the castle they substituted it with a 20-bed bunkhouse, which has been run very, very well but doesn't suit everyone.

"It's tourism that is going to give the island life and that might be nature tourism, bird tourism, geological tourism. 

"There were at one point eight universities sending groups to Rum and that's exactly what it should be used for as well as for people who want to walk or fish."

The  turreted, two-storey castle was built as a private residence for Sir George Bullough, a textile tycoon from Lancashire whose father bought Rùm as his summer residence and shooting estate.

It was designed to satisfy the whims of an extravagant and lavish Victorian lifestyle and houses a German-made orchestrion organ said to have been made for Queen Victoria, which is designed to reproduce the sound of a full orchestra.

However, not everyone is supportive of the castle's restoration.

Jim Crumley, a Scottish nature writer, described the castle as "a monument to colossal wealth and ego and acquisitive greed".

He wrote: "It is a building without a redeeming feature.. a loathsome edifice. It perpetuates only the memory of the worst kind of island lairds… a hideous affront, but nothing that a good fire and subsequent demolition couldn’t rectify".