The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is examining claims it is illegally occupying a remote Scottish island.
A retired lawyer claims the military’s lease on tiny St Kilda – 100 miles from the mainland – is illegal under crofting law.
Since the 1950s, the MoD has had a radar base on the Atlantic island that is used to test the performance of rockets vital to the security of the nation.
But Neil King, a retired property lawyer, says St Kilda remains crofting land and the MoD’s lease is “null and void”.
Crofts are small areas of farmland, mostly found in the highlands and islands of Scotland, that are governed by their own strict and complicated set of laws.
A crofting law expert described Mr King’s legal argument as “plausible”.
The MoD base is on Hirta, the main island of St Kilda. The island was crofting land for centuries until the last St Kildans were evacuated to the mainland in the 1930 when the community became unsustainable.
But St Kilda has never been legally “decrofted” by its owners, currently the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).
Mr King, from Edinburgh, who is retired but blogs on legal matters, said the Crofting Commission had confirmed the island was still crofting land and it had not consented to the MoD lease with the NTS.
He said: “The point is unless that lease was approved by the crofting commission, or they applied for a decrofting direction, the lease is null and void.
“The worst case scenario is their lease is null and void. The National Trust, as the owner, could ask them to up and leave.”
Crofting law expert, Brian Inkster of Inksters Solicitors, Glasgow, said: “Neil King’s analysis of the law relating to the St. Kilda crofts is very plausible.
“It is not uncommon to encounter developments that have taken place on croft land without decrofting. I have also encountered null and void leases elsewhere like the one the MoD have or perhaps do not have.”
Both experts said the MoD could still apply to get St Kilda “decrofted” to resolve the issue.
The National Trust for Scotland declined to comment on the legal status of their lease, saying they had “a mutually beneficial relationship with the MOD who are very helpful in managing such a remote location”.
A spokesman added: “It’s certainly an interesting historical topic which we may wish to research further in the future.”
A spokesman for the MoD said: “The MoD is looking into the issue.”
St Kilda is famed for its beauty and wildlife as well as a carefully preserved village of abandoned cottages.