A couple who run an exclusive country house hotel in Perthshire are facing eviction by the ruling family of the Gulf State of Qatar.
Tawne Overseas Holdings, owned by Prince Abdul Aziz al-Thani have raised an action at Perth sheriff court in which he sought to remove Elaine and James McFarlane and their three children.
Tawne Holdings claimed the couple have paid no rent since 28 May 2004.
Yet the McFarlanes argue that Prince Abdul stopped charging them rent as from last May, as long as they ceased trading as a hotel so they could always accommodate his family.
The rent was set at £115,000 per annum in 1999, dropping to £70,000 in 2002 after a land evaluation. "He led us to believe that we were going to receive a letter saying no more rent, no more guests," said Elaine.
The company disputed this and filed papers at Perth sheriff court stating: "Even if such an agreement was reached, which it wasn't, the McFarlanes have continued to run a business from the premises."
Tawne Holdings have subsequently requested a hearing later this year to evict the family.
However, Elaine said, "We have just done self-catering since September 2000. We have now paid the rent and he has refused to accept it. It is just sitting in a lawyer's account, but he wants to charge us an extra £90,000 in backdated rent."
The couple sold Newmiln House to the prince in 1999 for £2.3m, having spent 12 years renovating the crumbling Scottish pile. The prince allowed the couple to stay on and manage the hotel and 700-acre estate.
A three-day break cost £2,500, and the hotel has been used by celebrities such as Jude Law and Kate Moss.
By Victoria Heath
Buy this week's Caterer magazine for more industry news and analysis