Scots pensioner ‘duped’ into destroying bat roost on £850k estate dodges jail

A demolition contractor who razed a five bedroom mansion on an estate owned by Stagecoach tycoon Ann Gloag – contravening bat and bird protection laws – escaped with a fine today after a sheriff said he had been “duped” into carrying out the work.

David Kerr, 74, was said to have acted on the instructions of members of a business dynasty described as “friends of the Gloag family”.

Stirling Sheriff Court heard that Glassingall House, near Dunblane, which boasted its own swimming pool, squash court and tennis court, had been vacant for two years prior to the incident, and it had become home to “a variety of wildlife” including bats and birds.

Prosecutor Karon Rollo said it had been bought by Glasingall Estate Ltd for £850,000 in March 2018.

Ms Rollo, the deputy prosecutor, said: “The owner is Ann Gloag, of Stagecoach.”

Ms Rollo said a pre-planning application had been submitted for 135 holiday chalets and a sports complex at the site, but at the time of the demolition, there was no demolition warrant issued or even requested.

On June 11th 2020, members of the public visited the mansion to look at newts that had made their home in the swimming pool.

Ms Rollo said: “They observed a large machine pulling the house down.

“One of them saw a bat come from the house, swoop, and fly back up again.

“As an ecologist, they knew this was abnormal behavior as bats don’t come out during the day.

“It was distressed and disturbed.”

Other locals went to the scene drawn by “loud bangs” and two blue tit chicks on the ground on the patio.

“Agitated blue tits” were flying about. One of the blue tit checks was later noted dead.

The house was then seen on fire, with Kerr and a big yellow digger with his name on it close by.

Police and firefighters attended, and police saw two Range Rovers arrive at the scene.

The court heard that three men got out, one of whom identified himself as Anthony Gloag, Ann Gloag’s grandson. He said he was the “project manager” and was unaware of the fire.

The other two men were identified as Graham Gillespie and his brother Alfie.

Ms Rollo said: “The Gillespies were uncooperative with the police and were seen laughing at the locus [scene].

“It’s not known why they were present. It’s understood they are friends of the Gloag family.”

Kerr was formally arrested later.

Ms Rollo said: “He stated he had been employed by Graham Gillespie to knock the house down.

“The Gillespies are individuals who are well known to the civil courts. I understand the family owned a large mining business.

“The majority of the information on them, which I obtained from Google, relates to bankruptcy proceedings running into tens of millions.”

Kerr, 74, of Castlecary, near Cumbernauld, pleaded guilty to intentionally or recklessly destroying the nest of a blue tit while it was in use or being built, and damaging or destroying a bat roost at the estate – contravening the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act and the 1994 Conservation (Natural Habitats) Regulations by demolishing Glassingall House while the property “contained a bat roost” and a blue tit nest within the roof structure.

Defense agent Joanne Whitelaw said Kerr was an experienced demolition expert.

Miss Whitelaw said: “He was told, its Ann Gloag, of course all the paperwork would be in place.

“His position is that he was acting on instructions from Graham Gillespie and his brother Alfie Gillespie.

“He was told by the Gillespies themselves that they were representatives of Ann Gloag.

“In June 2020 I received a telephone call from Graham Gillespie, who said ‘Want to do a wee job for me – knocking down a house for Ann Gloag’?”

He met the Gillespies at nearby motorway services, then went to the site, where Graham Gillespie was again present.

Miss Whitelaw added: “He would not have proceeded if he had been aware of any roosts or animals in place.”

She said that Kerr was now being sued by Glassingall Estates for “hundreds of thousands of pounds” for demolishing the house — and had not been paid a penny for the demolition.

Sheriff Keith O’Mahony fined Kerr £740.

He said: “I accept that some extent you were duped into carrying out this demolition.

“Nevertheless, you didn’t check that the appropriate permissions and warrants were in place.”

Dame Ann said in 2019 that she was donating land on the Glassingall estate to Active Stirling – Stirling Council’s arms-length sports management company – for a proposed outwardbound centre.

The multi-millionairess said at the time that the plans would “bring back life and economic activity to the idyllic grounds of the Glassingall Estate, creating much needed rural jobs and providing a unique destination that will allow all its visitors to escape from the cities and explore this beautiful part of Scotland.

Wildlife Crime Officer Laura Robertson said: “Bats and their roosts are legally protected. It is an offense to disturb a bat in a roost or to damage or obstruct a roost, even if there is no bat in the roost at the time.

“Likewise, it is an offense to destroy, damage, take, obstruct or interfere with any kind of wild bird nest while it is being built or in use.

?Police Scotland takes all wildlife crime seriously and the public has an important role in helping us to investigate offenses of this nature. I would urge anyone who suspects a wildlife crime has been committed to contact us on 101, or 999 if it is an emergency.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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