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From the Province Of the Cat #28 – Radically Identical

Rosal Forest, scene of some of the worst Clearances, is back on the market

Rosal Forest, scene of some of the worst Clearances, is back on the market

Two significant things happened in the same week last month. On Thursday 22nd of May 68.5% of the Scottish electorate did not vote in the EU elections and UKIP secured one of the six available Scottish seats in the European parliament. On 23rd of May the Scottish government’s the Land Reform Review Group, which was established in 2012, published its final report The Land of Scotland and the Common Good and immediately the Scottish Government rejected one of the Review Groups central recommendations which were that business rates be applied to sporting estates from which they are currently exempt, as is other “agricultural” land. From where I sit in the North Highlands these two things are intrinsically and tragically linked.

We like to think of ourselves in Scotland as being, somehow, “different” from the rest of the UK in as much as we are an open, left-leaning socially democratic society, where differences are tolerated and foreigners are welcome. Quite where this dewy eyed vision of who we actually are came from I am not sure other than from those essayists who confuse what we aspire to become with what we have historically been. Fanned by the constant exposure given to them on the BBC and ITV, by the tabloids and by the mainstream political parties comprehensive inability to counter them 10% of those in Scotland who voted in the Europeans elections voted for UKIP.

The BBC, in particular, is addicted to UKIP and the British parties, in general, do what they always do when their political hegemony is threatened: they panic. Out UKIP-ing UKIP has proven to be electorally disastrous for the Tories and fatal for the Lib-Dems. Labour is shaken from without but not stirred from within, so much so that Margaret Curran appeared like a hysterical shade on TV the following Monday morning to actually claim a “victory” and wee Willie Rennie was on Radio Scotland the same day somehow similarly trying to convince himself that a total wipe-out for the Lib-Dems at the polls was proof of his party’s “integrity” and accusing the voters of “blowing with the wind.”

As usual the entire sordid cabal of them has learned nothing. The on-going blame-game following UKIP’s single seat in Scotland is proof of this. There is no “victory”. Racism, intolerance and xenophobia are equally fanned by the flames of poverty, joblessness and fear in Scotland as they are in England, France and Greece. “Integrity” is as easily trampled under the marching boots of racist banality in Caithness as is optimism suppressed in Catalonia. The visionless managers who poll their own prejudices and are encouraged by the results, instead of listening to the people, are manufacturing a dangerous civic apathy towards existing political processes which is as big a threat to democracy as the tiresome right wing rantings of Farage and co. The SNP can “celebrate” Scotland’s “difference” from the rUK but I for one take no comfort whatsoever from the recent EU elections. 7,818 people in the Highlands voted for UKIP. In Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles combined it was 2,081.

As Bertolt Brecht wrote in the dark days of 1941, “In poetry morality lies not in indignation but in truthfulness.” So it is in politics that the necessary morality our society needs also resides in truthfulness. None of the political parties are telling the truth. A 33.5% turnout is proof enough that our democracy is not working because people are obviously not participating. Does it also mean that this non-participatory majority do not believe the politicians, or does it mean they believe in nothing? The constant procession of party-political snake-oil salesmen who slither out of the media never tire of telling us, in their hissing tones, that the European elections do not reflect the British general elections which do not in turn reflect the Scottish elections and so on and so forth, so do not worry, soon it will be back to “business as usual” – this is the sophistry of the doomed. It is the step-dance of democracy’s death.

What Scotland needs to do is to change the steps of the dance. So how do we begin to change? In the Highlands and Islands the main concern is not with immigration but with emigration. Certain areas like the inner Moray Firth basin and Skye have recorded a population increase and this is to be welcomed but the general trend in the North of Scotland is of young local people leaving to be replaced by elderly incomers. This has many negative consequences on housing, education, the NHS and services in general. The issue of land, who owns it and how it is managed and used is vital in the Highlands –and throughout Scotland – if we are alter our political choreography. In the Highlands the land is the people and until that unity is restored emigration will continue.

What the Land Reform Review group recommend in its report is that landowners must prepare to downsize, pay non-domestic rates, democratise inheritance, reveal the extent of their holdings in the Scottish Land Register and expect more state, tenant farmer and community-led buyouts. Likewise development-blocking speculators will face tougher compulsory purchase powers, prompted by alienated urban and depopulating rural communities as well as hard up local authorities. Offshore investors in tax havens face an outright ban. It is also recommended that the Crown Estates Commission hand over the land and coastal assets it controls – this is crucial if renewable energy, for example, is to develop for the common good – to Scottish ministers who themselves must transfer land to communities without needless bureaucracy or at artificially inflated market prices. Wealth has to be created and held within communities not transferred out to asset managers. Other common sense recommendations are for a Land and Property Commission, a Community Land Agency and Housing Land Corporation all of which will combine to deliver a national land policy.

As we have seen the Scottish government has already said it will not implement the Review Groups recommendation on business rates and as Andy Wightman has noted elsewhere that of the 62 recommendations 58 are within the full devolved competence of the Scottish Parliament. Why have none been implemented up to now and how many more of them will be kicked into the long grass in the near future? It will be interesting to see how many recommendations will feature in the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill when its second stage comes before Parliament in June? Or will it be the case, on the land issue, as Neil Jordan noted of his screenplay for the film “Michael Collins” “…it changed in all its details, yet remained exactly the same.”? Put simply: we cannot afford the status quo in land issues. Or will the SNP’s past ambivalent attitude to land ownership, be the same in relationship to this new initiative on land reform, as the historian Angus Mackay termed the differences between Caithness and Sutherland; that “they are radically identical”?

In the Highlands and Islands immigration is absolutely necessary if we are to have any kind of economy at all. We must also ensure that our young economically active people can remain and have a future and that those who have left for education or employment can return, have families and prosper. To do this we do not require a reform in land use but a revolution in land ownership. The Highlands needs people and the people do not need the status quo.

I have heard often and from otherwise sensible people that it is not ownership of land which is the issue, but how it is managed. This ideological solipsism, this dialectical kink, is the bane of those who understand that the future has to be radically different from the past. To travel through the empty straths of Sutherland and West Caithness, to see these achingly beautiful but now barren landscapes, emptied of their people and stripped to the bone by sheep and deer, is for me to suffer such deep physical and psychic pain that I cannot fully put it into words. What these districts need is people and the energy their lives will bring back to the land. It is people who named Strathnaver and Kildonan and it is people who will return to these places what Alastair McIntosh would call “soul”.

Without ownership of the land the people are vulnerable. Whoever “the people” are I attach no conditions because I know that over time the place conditions the people whether they come from Thessalonica or Thurso: it fashions their nature as much as the hand of mankind has conditioned the landscape. Without the security ownership of land brings – however that ownership is constituted, whether individually or cooperatively – there can be no progress. What Murray Bookchin has called “the ecology of freedom” means that we must re-examine what such things as “house”, “energy”, “power”, “education” and “economy” mean. In the Highlands of the future they cannot mean electricity pumped in from afar, children who know nothing of their history or environment and the generation of value and wealth locally only for that to be “owned” by someone or some company in Edinburgh or London.

What the recent European elections show is that the cosy paradigm enjoyed by the political establishment of Britain is falling apart due to its own corruption. What UKIP represent is a warning from the past. We must tackle the forces of reaction head on, challenge everything they stand for and come September 2014 move forward to create the new Scotland the people desire.

© George Gunn 2014

George Gunn’s new play “3000 Trees” will be performed at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Go to  www.3000trees.com for more information.

Comments (32)

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  1. Clootie says:

    I found the article very thought provoking. I do not understand why the Scottish government do not implement the recommendations. However that is very different from saying that they should or that they are wrong not to.

    Are the Scottish government aware of loop holes which would negate the impact of a law change for example?
    Do they have even better proposals post independence?

    I would like to see a resonse to this challenge from the SNP but I would also like to see the views of the other parties. I have already read our new UKIP MEP’s comments (that was rather sad).

    Good article George. It deserves a response from all the parties in Scotland but especially the SNP who hold power at present.

  2. simply abusing UKIP ignores the fact that their popularity stems from a distrust of Westminster and a wish for ordinary people to have a say without speaking the Westminster double-talk. Sad really that Nationalists presumably seeking a democratic and egalitarian Scotland fall into the trap of mocking them because they look different and do not conform to Ukanian views of acceptability/

    Frankly if the independent Scotland simply replicates a tartan middle-class elite that dislikes democracy and dissent, then it is worthless. The SNP gets the same abuse as UKIp of being tartan Tories and racists because they talk about patriotism on equally scanty evidence other than a wish not to recognise the intellectual superiority of Meesrs Cameron, Miliband and Clegg sp think before you jump on the London bandwagon…

    1. Clootie says:

      What abuse?

      1. Crubag says:

        Possibly lotta is referring to (in relation to UKIP getting a seat) the writer’s:

        [rise of] “Racism, intolerance and xenophobia”

        “dangerous civic apathy towards existing political processes which is as big a threat to democracy as the tiresome right wing rantings of Farage and co”

        “What UKIP represent is a warning from the past. We must tackle the forces of reaction head on, challenge everything they stand for”

        Personally, I don’t find it as abusive as Farage being barracked on his visit to Edinburgh – but then that also seems to have backfired. Looking at how well the Tory vote held up, I’d guess some of the UKIP vote is a targeted rejection of the SNP, rather than Tory voters crossing the floor, and perhaps inspired by the SNP campaign team trying to make it a binary choice between SNP and UKIP: Sturgeon – “The only way to stop Ukip getting a seat in Scotland is to vote SNP”, which led to Coburn saying “Anybody who is anti-SNP should pile in behind me.”

        Though I wouldn’t rule out simple EU-scepticism, too.

        What I did wonder about the article was how the writer squared:

        “we are [or aspire to be] an open, left-leaning socially democratic society, where differences are tolerated and foreigners are welcome”

        With “comprehensive inability to counter them 10% of those in Scotland who voted in the Europeans elections voted for UKIP.”

        So all opinions are welcome except the ones that aren’t?

        Post-independence I’d expect it to be the centre right to be the big winners. SNP are already right of centre on economic issues, and a Scottish led Conservative party, with policies relevant to Scotland could be expected to improve on the remarkably solid bedrock they already have – 17%! Up 0.4% from last time, despite Cameron and Co as the brand figureheads.

        I’d expect Labour to continue to hoover up the centre left votes, especially with a more Scoto-centric programme.

  3. yerkitbreeks says:

    Integral to my YES vote is land reform ( and this is coming from someone who owns a small parcel of land ).

    Any political party which fudges this will have to expect trouble regardless of the outcome in September. While the selfish few hog so much of the Scottish landmass the idea of democracy as opposed to plutocracy will be risible.

  4. JGedd says:

    You are right. It is ownership of the land which matters. We must address the issue of Scotland being the most unequal country in Europe as regards land ownership. Changing this situation to one of more equal distribution would have important ramifications both for land usage and diversity of ownership. Those huge wildernesses should not remain barren of people. With the right approach and management we can still have magnificent scenery that does not exclude humans.

    Recent archaeology in the Amazon jungle has revealed that the wilderness of the Amazon was not always that way but once sustained a much larger population who lived in sizeable interconnected communities who managed their environment in a sophisticated way. The preferred option now would seem to be that, instead of excluding human settlement from these areas, to allow managed occupation with discretion. ( Of course there are the immense pressures of also managing the ecology of Amazonian forests against logging interests and other commercial lobbying.)

    Scotland doesn’t have problems on the scale of Amazonia, but the preference of some for the so-called pristine wilderness over human presence shouldn’t cloud judgments. Options are still open after independence and arguments can still be made. As long as we work to get the right balance.

    1. MBC says:

      Don’t know where you’re living but there are plenty of kids running around in central Scotland, where by and large there is affordable housing. Edinburgh is a lively place and regarded as very cool by the 60,000 students who live there.

      1. JGedd says:

        I don’t know where you are living either when you think that Edinburgh is all there is to know about Scotland. Perhaps you are one of those privileged students and in case you didn’t realize, an estimation of “affordable” is relative to your income. There are many areas of deprivation and poverty in Scotland as well as large tracts of land used as shooting estates. Perhaps because of your comfortable life you think that there is no reason for change.

        Anyway, did you actually read George Gunn’s article? There is a lot of Scotland outwith the central belt. Perhaps you should get out more and see it.

      2. MBC says:

        Hi, no, I’m not one of those privileged students. If you read my post I was actually referring to central Scotland where I hail from, and Edinburgh, where I work. The population of the central belt is growing and there are lots of young folk.

        Rural depopulation is occurring all over Europe and the entire world. The Highlands just start from a much lower base because of the 19th century history. What will re-populate the Highlands is enterprise that creates jobs. I’m by no means convinced that this will be achieved by bashing landlords. In certain cases it might, in other cases landowners might possibly even be able to encourage jobs. It’s complex, but this analysis is simplistic and class driven.

        What we need are modern jobs in the Highlands, not more subsistence crofters.

  5. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    Compared to England, Scotland may seem like costa geriatrica. London, and not just London, is young, lively, edgy and to many from abroad, cool. We have as yet no real equivalent. The new regime we install in our country has to address the age problem; age not simply in terms of demographics but in general attitude to life. Young Scots do find the high road to London more attractive than staying put. The cautious, conservative, dull patina which our native civilisation has acquired over the centuries needs to be removed. This requires a imaginative, perceptual leap beyond the conventionally comfortable. It requires a politics that doesn’t need shots of botox and testosterone. Many in the electorate may not be too keen, but nevertheless that leap must be made if we are to escape from the cozy, provincial rut carved by unionism.

    1. Michael says:

      ‘Young Scots do find the high road to London more attractive than staying put.’ Actually that’s nonsense. The vast majority of young Scots stay exactly where they are. Whether that is a good thing or not is another question but it’s a fact. My own experience of London when I lived there is that the vast bulk of it is a completely run down dump that makes Falkirk look like Monaco. The rest of what you say is, of course, mostly right.

  6. Douglas says:

    George Gunn,

    You’re absolutely right, the turn out was shocking…If even half of progressive Scotland had voted, we wouldn’t have to thole the indignity of having a UKIP Euro MP representing Scotland in Brussels, the gorge rises at it.

    We’re all paying this UKIP clown 6,000 Euros a month to misrepresent Scotland in the European Parliament, the European Parliament which is the only institution through which the EU can be reformed in a progressive way?.
    He won’t even turn up half the time, he;ll just pick up his salary each month and spend it fuelling hatred against Europeans living in Scotland.

    Scotland, a country’ with such close historical ties with so many European countries, not least Poland, not least with Lithuania, with the Baltic area which we traded with for centuries and where so many Scots emigrated over the centuries and made their mark? Scotland which hosted the Polish army in exile here during WWII, returning a UKIP MEP? A sad week for Scotland, I still can’t quite believe it.

    I hope the people who couldnay be bothered voting and who are for progressive politics learn their lesson from this UKIP disaster….

  7. George, This has been a long time coming but at last we are making a start on the land issue, who owns it and benefits from it the way forward for community ownership and the common good.

    It is thanks to people like Andy Wightman and other land campaigners like yourself that we have got this far.

  8. Doug says:

    Can land reform take place without consultations with the EU? I believe that their Agenda 21 has some other ideas on how members plan for the future.

  9. MBC says:

    I’m sorry but this is just sour grapes. The vote for UKIP on both sides of the Border was a protest vote.

    I really wish the left would learn some lessons from this: the EU needs reform. Badly. Whatever right wing nutters the UKIP candidates might be, don’t transfer that character to the voters.

    There has always been a Eurosceptic wing of SNP voters, but it is just suppressed and unacknowledged by Alex Salmond. Having met a few of these in the past, I wouldn’t describe their politics as right wing, not remotely. They were well to the left, and Eurosceptic. That’s a valid position to take.

    It has been estimated that as many as 10% of UKIP’s vote in Scotland came from SNP voters. There must have been other SNP voters who shared their Eurosceptic views but nonetheless felt the SNP might better represent their concerns on Europe so voted SNP.

    There is something really sick with politics if people with valid and reasonable concerns about the workings of the EU- its aggrandisement, super-state-building and lack of accountability – that they will turn to an extreme right wing party to register their disenchantment because mainstream parties refuse to take on board criticisms of Europe or try to do anything about it.

    1. Pam McMahon says:

      You could use the protest vote argument to dismiss the election of any candidate or party; it doesn’t mean that this is a correct interpretation of the results. That is a Beleaguered-Establishment position which doesn’t really reflect what actually happened.
      I was one of those who actually split the vote by voting Green this time, because of my disgust with the SNP and it’s lack of challenge of the BBC’s anti-independence bias. There are many, many factors affecting the election of a UKIP MEP to Scotland, not least the blanket and uncritical coverage of their every word on the BBC.
      Yes, the EU is in urgent need of reform, but is Scotland going to be inside the tent pissing out, or outside, pissing down it’s own socks?

      1. MBC says:

        I didn’t vote UKIP! But SNP, as I reckoned we would need all the MEP’s we could muster. Still, with only 6, or only 2 that actually care about us, that puts us on par with tiny Malta (population 460,000).

        If we were independent we might have as many as Denmark (13).

        My point is that people are getting hysterical over UKIP. Or rather, their voters. I don’t think the voters have gone mad, but rather that the mainstream parties, including the SNP just refuse to acknowledge that the EU needs reform and you are not a nut for thinking this.

    2. Douglas says:

      MBC, the point is that UKIP don’t want to reform the EU, they want out so that they can undercut the EU in trade negotiations with individual countries, at least that is the underlying economic reason.

      And they are a party made up of people looking for scapegoats, the dirtiest, cheapest, oldest trick in the book: blame the outsider, blame the weak, blame the vulnerable.

      I agree that not all UKIP voters are idiots, I just think they voted like idiots on this occasion…

      The point remains that if the pro indie parties had mobilized, we would have no UKIP representation in Scotland today.

      And I wish the RIC had run a candidate. That would have mobilised the anti EU vote on the Left, some of whom may have voted for UKIP too as you or somebody above says…

      It’s an own goal, and now the fox is in the henhouse….UKIP will be all over the Scottish Media from here until September…

      1. MBC says:

        Douglas, I agree that UKIP are idiots. Coburn was saying today that he would annul the Yes vote if there was one. My point is that the public don’t have many levers of power, and voting UKIP to send a rocket up the backside of the establishment, including the leftie politically correct establishment in Scotland, that not all is well with the EU and that there needs to be reform, is one of the few crude simplistic ways of getting their attention on this particular point. It doesn’t mean they actually agree with UKIP in the more particular and nasty sense. There are a lot of taboos and self-censorship, things you just can’t say any more or the cultural police will silence you, and the UKIP appeal is based on a reaction against the thought police. All I am trying to say is that I don’t think that all 140,000 UKIP voters in Scotland are of the same stripe as Coburn, nor would they vote for him at a general election. UKIP can do absolutely nothing to reform the EU, all they can do is annoy the political establishment at home. My further point is that this self censorship is inhealthy in a democracy. People are voting UKIP because there are valid and legitimate criticisms of policy that you can no longer make. We ought to be able to speak our minds and tolerate differences of opinion, on things like immigration for instance. We ought to be able to have an open debate.

        If we want to tackle UKIP we need to hoist them by their own petard and say, OK, what are you actually doing for us in Europe then? Getting rid of those annoying pointless regulations are you?

  10. Heather says:

    Absolutely yes, this is a huge issue in Scotland. Post September, if it is a YES, I suspect that land reform will come about, it has to for Scotland to utilise resources to benefit the population. There are many who will do their utmost to stop the growth of community land ownership etc. It is too senstive a subject at the moment, but that will change. It has to be a Yes vote, otherwise we can expect more nuclear for starters.
    I am looking forward to seeing a more equitable attitude toward land use and land ownership post Independence, but it will be the opposite if Scotland chooses to be ruled over by westminster for the next few generations, well, until they have sucked the life out of the place!

  11. MBC says:

    In Norway there have been family owned farms for centuries, especially in the western part of the country which is the most similar to the Scottish Highlands. This has radically shaped Norwegian society for the better, not having the landlords. The aristocracy was more or less wiped out by the Black Death in the 14th century. The only noble family to survive with their land-holdings reasonably intact were the Wedel- Jarlsbergs. The Black Death meant a peasant land ownership revolution. This has had a profound impact on Norwegian social history and led to a culture of quiet confidence in unostentatious self-sufficiency and also of community co-operation, which the Norwegians have a great talent for.

    But all the same Norway is still suffering from rural depopulation. Young people no longer find it cool to be a small independent farmer. More food is imported from abroad and the Norwegian palate is no cosmopolitan. Supermarkets stock Tex Mex and Thai foods. Family farms are being abandoned because nobody wants to work them. Rural schools are closing. Nobody wants to be a fisherman either. In Bergen the famous fishmarket used to teem with all sorts of fish swimming live in tanks brought in that morning. Now it is filled with stalls staffed by young unemployed Spanish graduates selling hippy crap imported from elsewhere. Traditional Norwegian foods can still be bought but they are no longer the dominant item for sale.

    So yes, some measure of land reform might help reverse the depopulation of the Highlands, especially if it led to cheap and affordable housing.

    But what Scotland and the Highlands really needs are jobs, especially high tech high quality jobs. New rurally based industries and enterprises need to be established, not bashing the landlords. There is even the possibility that landlords could assist in rural regeneration, new forms of agriculture and food production for niche markets.

  12. Douglas says:

    The SNP fought the wrong campaign at the Euro elections, I’m surprised, nay I’m amazed.

    Salmond has said on numerous occasions that offering people a positive message is always more appealing than a negative one, but he didn’t do that this time.

    This time, the SNP fell for the UKIP agenda in reverse: keep UKIP out Scotland was his pitch to the voters. Well, nobody really believed that UKIP were going to win a seat here, I certainly didn’t, and that is no way of getting people to the ballot box anyway. It’s like playing away from home. And so the people most motivated to vote were the anti EU voters. Madness!

    And this, in this year of years? Truly remarkable. Maybe fatigue is to blame. A long campaign has its advantages and its disadvantages, but I think the SNP made a bad call here.

    The pitch for the Euro elections was obvious to me: let’s show Barroso that we are more European minded than the rest of the UKIP but ensuring a massive turnout, onwards to indie Scotland in Europe2016 etc.

    And it could have been done together with the other pro indie parties. It should have been a rehearsal for the referendum, before the summer kicks in.

    But the SNP have been wandering down some pretty uninteresting roads recently. If I wanted to be 1,000 pounds richer a year, there are plenty of ways I can go about it without voting YES to Scottish independence. I can cut my expenses, I can give up smoking, I can look for a better job…That’s a footnote to the independence debate, but it was the headline story last week.

    As for the UKIP vote being a protest vote, no doubt it is, but it’s not an intelligent protest vote.

    Even if you want to leave the EU, you need smart negotiators. These guys are idiots with populist knee-jerk racist policies which offer no solutions at all.

    And can I just make the point that borders and visa and the State telling you where you can or cannot live are a modern invention? Humans have always moved about from place to place, and the idea of shutting people out is totalitarian…

  13. In the early 1990s when a small group of us started the original Isle of Eigg Trust very few took us seriously. George Gunn was a regular visitor to Eigg at that time, and will remember those days. The issue was too big for mainstream politicians to get a grip. Too many vested interests compromised, whether as owners, or through family connections, or a touch of the good old “How would you like a day’s shooting next week?”

    Our original land trust, that raised the £1.6m that was then transferred to the better-constituted Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, was a joke initially because that was all we could be. Frankly, there were times when I (then lecturing in human ecology at Edinburgh Uni) found our limited latitude for action embarrassing. After the initial launch people would ask “How’s Eigg?” and I’d have to talk of hundreds, not hundreds of thousands in the bank. BUT – we got under the skin of landed power. We became an irritant when there was very little else on the horizon (this was before even Assynt was launched). And as landed power responded in its time honoured fashion, the energy, and our credibility, started to build. I’ve documented that process in Soil and Soul as has Camille Dressler in her history, Eigg (Birlinn), currently being reprinted.

    Gradually it grew beyond us and the process became almost entirely run by resident islanders. People started to see the intereriority of landed power – I would say, its corrupt “spirituality” – and they were shocked. Landed power responded as a flock of demons duly raised, and further self-revealed.As Issy MacPhail said of Assynt around this time, they realised that all they needed to do was point a camera at Vesty and he’d do the rest himself.

    Come Devolution, and it needed a theme that could capture why it was needed. There were many reasons why Devolution was needed, but land encapsulated so much – privilege, the public schooled classes, patronisation, disempowerment, Freireian cultural invasion, Fanonian inferiorisation, etc.. As such, land reform developed as flagship legislation of the new Parliament, but always in a limited way. The value of that earlier legislation has not been what it achieved directly, but the tenor it set indirectly: the manner in which it normalised community landholding (a term I prefer to “ownership”).

    After that initial flush all went very quiet. I wasn’t too worried. My sense was that the various community initiatives needed space to try themselves out, to establish what the Quaker tradition calls “patterns and examples”. That has now happened – very successfully – which is why the time is now ripe for another wave of land reform. This time, let it be an impetus for independence. However, in my view we can’t expect too much of the current political constellation. The SNP in my view holds together because a single issue enables it to unite left and right within its ranks, with the effect that sound ideas for Scotland’s future have been well managed. With independence, that settlement is likely to self-destruct. A more radical politics then becomes a possibility.

    It does not surprise me that the SNP moved quickly to take distance from the Land Value Taxation and Rates proposals in Dr Elliot’s report. Too much to frighten the horses. But where the horses shy, that’s where the water lies. In my view LVT should be used, with exemption for small and community landholdings, both to lower land capital values and to finance future buyouts. As such, the lairds will finance their own clearance. I can say that because I am behoven to no political party and my agenda is the rather peculiar one of a liberation theology of the land that progressively frees the human spirit. It may take a while for political awareness to catch up, but “fredome is a noble thing,” and little by little, the scales of our potential as a Scottish peoples (plural) drop from our eyes.

  14. How can land be owned? The big estates were stolen from the people centuries ago. Is not ownership of land a European phenomenon which we exported to the lands we conquered and colonised. Land should be sequestrated and given back to the people. The should not have to buy back land that was stolen from their ancestors.

  15. Douglas says:

    With William Steel’s comment above, two different strands of this comment thread converge.

    How indeed can land be “owned”, and in the case of Scotland, so much of it by so few after such an outrageous injustice as the Clearances?

    And equally, how can the Scots, even 10% of those who voted the other day say, “Scotland is ours, exclusively ours”.

    Europe was never homogeneous, that is a myth, a myth peddled since the 19th century by old style ethnic European nationalists.

    Europe was always a melting pot until the 20th century, when millions of people were displaced in the name of “racial purity” before and during the War or “societal cohesion” after the war, or whatever bullshit term they used to describe it.

    People always used to talk different languages on the trains of Europe, and that includes Scotland.

    Will the Poles living with us and among us, and the Romanians, have to do what the massive influx of Lithuanians and Latvians did at the end of the 19th century and adopt Scottish surnames to feel at home here (all those Smiths)?

    Or like the cleared Highlanders from the glens, drop the Mac from their surnames (all those Fergusons), anglicizing their surnames, to feel at home?

    Any move towards the UKIP agenda is a catastrophic mistake, the thin edge of the wedge, and will only demonstrate that we have learned nothing from the nightmare of the twentieth century..

    And yes, there is an immigration crisis in Europe right now, but it’s not taking place in Britain.

    The crisis is being lived by the thousands of Africans who drown each year trying to cross the Mediterranean, shot at by Spanish border guards in the water, or left to drift at sea by fascistic Italian naval officers, or interred and left to fester in what amount to concentration camps, as good old Europe, that font of civilization and culture and learning, lets out the old ghosts from the attic, while screwing Africa for every penny it can, and then blaming starving Africans for trying to avoid living in abject poverty all of their lives.

    But Britain is so poisoned by the mainstream media, the most toxic, stupid, backward, nasty, media in the western world, that I am pessimistic about the future.

    The body politic is on a drip, a drip feed of poison, of toxic, bacteria infested serum

    All I can say is thank god for the free press.

  16. Crubag says:

    “Land should be sequestrated and given back to the people.”

    Given we are a medium-density country, that will amount to around 14 square metres per citizen.

    Good news, I suppose, if the national land lottery awards you a stretch of Princes or Buchanan Street, less good if it is unimproved land somewhere remote from the central belt, possibly just big enough for a hut.

    But I could see something similar to the post-Communist collapse happening, and their distribution of millions of small shares in national industries. The speculators and eventual oligarchs were quite quickly able to gain control:


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