It was transferred to community ownership fifteen years ago following a vote by its 17 residents, making it the smallest buyout of its kind in Scotland's history.

Now, 15 years on, islanders have voiced fears that the private takeover of an A-listed castle and estate could undo decades of work to build a "thriving" economy on Rum.

The Scottish Government has commissioned a Delphi study to garner the views of the island's 40 or so residents about the future of Kinloch Castle, which is owned by Nature Scot and requires around £10million of repairs.

It follows a messy dispute over the future of the crumbling former shooting lodge that is said to have led to the entire community being trolled online.

Jeremy Hosking, a city financier and former Conservative Party donor, was in late-stage negotiations to buy and repair the castle last year and set up a Trust to run it before he pulled out of the deal, after being introduced to the project by Highland councillor Angus MacDonald.

The Herald: Jeremy Hosking pulled out of the deal to buy Kinloch Castle Jeremy Hosking pulled out of the deal to buy Kinloch Castle (Image: PA)

He accused the Scottish Green of "crushing a conservation project" amid claims biodiversity minister Lorna Slater put the breaks on the sale.

However, Fliss Fraser, director of the Isle of Rùm Community Trust, said Ms Slater stepped in at their request and said concerns remain about "any" future sale.

She said: "The proposals and heads of terms mentioned by Mr MacDonald on behalf of Mr Hosking were out of touch with Scottish Government's 21st century land reform agenda and that's without mentioning any environmental and social impact.

The Herald:

"For Scottish Government to sell a private estate ( it's not just the castle)  on an island and shoehorn it into the middle of a community-owned village just because they need to dispose of an asset is irresponsible. 

"Lorna Slater stepped in at our request,  not as a replacement to Ms Forbes, but because she was the minister responsible for directing Nature Scot and the only person able to prevent them from proceeding without due diligence.


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"What followed were months of lengthy meetings to try to reach some kind of understanding.

"Sadly none was reached with both Nature Scott and Mr Hosking's agent entirely unable to understand or empathise with what the community were saying."

She said the community was "tired of being slated" for suggesting that a restoration of the castle may not be the right approach.

"We have tried hard to approach the crumbling castle issue with an open mind, some of the heritage lobby do recognise that buildings such as this cannot , and possibly should not, be propped up indefinitely and certainly with what Kinloch Castle represents, you could strongly argue that it falls into this category," said Ms Fraser.

"Having the entire community trolled online for stopping the sale hasn't been enjoyable but some lateral thinking is what is required.

"Now we, as a community, are engaged in the process, we are not willing to accept anything other than a solution that works for everyone.

"This may not mean a sale, though Scottish Government may not agree with this.

"Yes, the castle requires investment whatever its future but finding the solution and then looking for investment seems a better plan to us."

"After all, whatever terms are agreed for any sale doesn't stop it bring sold on to someone else in the future who doesn't have the best intentions for the resident community."

In the 1820s the island's much larger community of 400 inhabitants were "cleared" en masse, sent to make new lives in Nova Scotia, and replaced by 8,000 black-faced sheep after building up significant rent arrears to Rum's owners, the MacLeans of Coll.

There was a more positive turn of events in 2009 when a vote saw islanders given ownership of the 13 homes, farm buildings, shop and surrounding land.

She said the community fears the sale of the castle and its accompanying land may lead to a "power imbalance", eroding the rights of residents.

She said: "You don't need to be a historian to know how it worked with big houses/castles and local communities in the past,  that the local community would provide the staff to service the big house.

"This community didn't want to be in-service to the big house, we expect it to be the other way around, we want it to support our economy not drown it

"The Small Isles prides itself on the community ownership on Eigg and Rùm and the new community developments on Canna too," added Ms Fraser, who is also secretary of the Small Isles Community Council.

"We work hard to promote sustainable travel and tourism, we provide affordable housing  and have several community led income generating capital projects under our belt.

"What we don't need is off island do-gooders telling is what it is that we need and how they can fix it for us."

The Scottish Government is expected to publish the study's findings in the Autumn.

Kinloch 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.