THE National Trust for Scotland (NTS) has conceded it may have been too harsh after a small business accused the conservation charity of bullying.

Lawyers for the NTS threatened Aboyne-based Hilltrek Outdoor Clothing with legal action over use of the name Glencoe, ordering it to stop selling its £365 Glencoe waterproof jacket immediately.

A letter issued to owner Dave Shand said the NTS was the “registered proprietor of the UK trademark registration for GLENCOE”.

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In the letter, lawyers for the charity, which owns most of the glen, stated: “NTS seeks to ensure that only goods and services of suppliers with geographical links to GLENCOE can bear the name GLENCOE and also to protect the interests of the local community and local trade in GLENCOE.

“NTS requires that you: 1. immediately stop selling any goods which include the name GLENCOE from your website and 2. refrain from using GLENCOE on any future products and/or packaging.”

Mr Shand, who bought Hilltrek Outdoor Clothing in 2003, said the company, which employs just three other people, had been making the jacket for between 25 and 30 years.

Hundreds of people have responded after he posted the letter on Facebook, including many NTS members threatening to cancel their membership.

Describing the moment he received the letter, Shand said: “I was really angry, I just couldn’t believe it. I was stunned by it.

“They obviously think that Aboyne and Deeside is too far away to have a geographical connection, but I’ve been hill-walking in Glencoe since my late teens.

“I have a connection with Glencoe and our customers have a connection with Glencoe.”

Of the jacket, he said: “We don’t produce huge numbers and our product is a premium product. It’s not a ‘See You Jimmy’ hat with Glencoe on it. It’s a top end product.”

Shand said: “I hope the NTS will approach us and we’ll have some useful dialogue rather than this nonsense.

“This is what I would have expected of them as an organisation — send a letter saying ‘you are infringing our trademark but we’d like to know more about your product to see if it fits in with our brand’. That’s what I would have expected, a reasonable approach rather than bullying.

“Personally I hate bullies, so they’ve picked the wrong person. I’m determined to fight it.”

An NTS spokesman said: “In retrospect, although the letter sent to Hilltrek was a standard one, it may have been, in the circumstances of this particular company, too harsh in tone.”

He added: “From the outset we have never had any intention of undermining established and new businesses trading locally to our registered properties, and we have gone out of our way to ensure they can continue trading without interruption or cost.

“What we have done, after taking legal advice, is to contact a number of companies using trademarked names which are not local.

“Our only desire is to protect the properties in our care and stop them being exploited in ways which do not accord with our charitable purposes.

“Our letter to Hilltrek was intended to open up negotiation to establish if the company had legal prior trading rights and clearly the wording and tone did not convey this.

“We would be happy to enter into a dialogue with them with the aim of finding a mutually agreeable solution.”