Mike Vickers' Blog

October 14, 2018

Festival of Politics

Filed under: Edinburgh Festival, History in the making, Land Ownership, Politics, Scotland — derryvickers @ 8:29 pm

For the last 15 years The Scottish Parliament has been holding a Festival of Politics.  The festival typically provides 20 events: talks and panels on topics of political interest both current and from the past,  local and world wide.  I have attended for the last three years and below I provide very brief summaries as to what I picked up from the 5 events I attended this year.

Red Clydesiders

Panel: Maggie Craig (Writer on Scotland); Billy Kendrick (from Dundee and it showed); Prof Ian McClean (Oxford University) and Monica Lennon MSP Chair (Labour, Central Scotland).

Introductions by all on Red Clydeside but see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red Clydeside for more.

The speakers emphasised the role of women in the strikes and the movement as a whole; MC in particular considered that the role was / is almost wholly ignored.

Religious intolerance rife during the WW1 War Years.

Names of the persona were remembered. There should be a plaque in 2019 to recognise Red Clydeside.

The real start of the Labour Party (ILP) but the Communist association had been around for some time. Council Housing after WW1 was good quality but has got worse ever since (IM).

The current problem with the Labour Party is the lack of leaders.

What Glasgow did, Dundee did it too (BK).

People Parliaments Possibilities

Panel: Birgitta Jonsdottir (Iceland, mother and political activist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birgitta_J%C3%B3nsd%C3%B3ttir); Brett Hennig (Sortition Foundation, Australian); Jamie Kelsey-Fry (professional panellist) and Shelagh Wright Chair (daughter of Canon Kenyon Wright).

BJ described drawing up the proposed constitution for Iceland; she was very proud of the work done. But constitution so far rejected by the parliament.

Current Elections ‘aristocratic’.

BK: Democracy by random selected committee (Sortition); applied in Ireland for change to Abortion Laws group assembled for a few weeks and then became the then current law.

JKF: throw out everything, economics is broken and start again even the laws; Taxation is politics. Remember the Occupation of St Pauls. All the good work being done in Madrid by new woman mayor; Frome is moving this way.

All agreed that the Young should lead the way.

 

In Conversation with Dame Margaret Hodge held in the main council chamber

Ken Macintosh (Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament)

Margaret Hodge one-time Chair of the UK Public Accounts Committee 2010-15

MH, a Jew, came out of Germany before WW2; Welcomed into the UK in London and became a Labour supporter immediately and still is; she is still an MP for Barking.

An economist by trade

She was Council Leader for Islington and remembers Jeremy Corbyn well (MP for Islington North). Corbyn is still quoting the same policies he said 20 years ago

Have never been close friends leading to Corbyn’s Anti-Semitism remarks direct at Hodge.

Not a practising Jew and critic of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians but still fell out with Corbyn

She managed the Public Accounts Committee through consensus. Her track record was 246 out of 247 successes. Lost the Royal Mail privatisation which she most regrets. Journalists can be on your side through good relations but its so easy to lose connections.

One needs to recognise the value of money

Auditors help Governments to set the rules then sell themselves to large companies to circumvent the rules. This is immoral.

She was persuaded to put one person under investigation under Oath but then couldn’t find a Bible. Since then she believes that putting people under Oath is correct. Money Laundering is rife.

The HMRC make tax deals but as the HMRC is not a ministerial organisation these deals remain undisclosed: this needs correction.

Governments are little better: the justification for the two aircraft carriers was not forthcoming by Gordon Brown.

Global Companies are not moral despite what they state. Needs to be one unified global set of accounts. Facebook has never been held to account.

Final words; Build Trust, Connect with People, still supports Labour values.

 

A Forgotten History: The Scottish Clearances

In Conversation with Tom Devine held in the main council chamber

Ken Macintosh (Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

Professor Tom Devine: historian of Scotland – excellent speaker

Professor Stana Nenadic in attendance

The Main debating chamber was full as well as the public gallery

The Clearances: forgotten – well not by the audience!

The subject was Tom Devine’s new book on the Scottish Clearances. He frequently emphasised that his book is totally underpinned by historical research over 30 years.

TD has given as much attention to the Lowland Clearances as to the Highlands. He doesn’t dismiss the Highland Clearances but considers they have been for the last 150 years romanticised. John Pebble’s book is a good read, sold over 25,000 copies, but has a lot to answer for; Victorianism has not helped.

Tartan Products are the best-known brand worldwide. TD considers the Lowland Clearances started first and Lowland Managers migrated with the lessons they learned to the Highlands. TD considers the Lowland clearances were much more subtle; a tenancy agreement came to an end and the tenant was out. In the Highlands durcus (correct word please) remained strong and new landlords with little interest in it just deposed the crofters.

SN believes a major driver of the clearances was the landlords’ need for money to support their elevated life style (conspicuous consumption); gentrification.  Typically, families would have ten or more sons who just couldn’t be supported on the land; joined the army and were with their tenants the backbone of the imperial regiments about, Waterloo. Their tartans help builds the brand.

 

Who Owns and Stewards Scotland

Panel: Andy Wightman (the Poor had no Lawyers); Bob MacIntosh (Land Commission); Ninian Stuart (Centre for Stewardship); David Johnson (Scottish Land and Estates Commission) and in the chair Deputy Presiding Officer – Name please.

There are few owners of land in Scotland; most small farmers are tenants. Agreed that the drive must be to get more young people under 30 on to the land.

Land value is very difficult to assess; AW land value near towns gets out of control once planning permission sort.

Land Value Tax brought up, but DJ said many reasons why difficult to quantify.

House prices fluctuate widely cf Germany where prices have been stable of years; the Germans heavy investment deposited in banks which is reinvested in new businesses.

Secure Tenancy is drying up as landlords unwilling to be unable to terminate at tenancy end. Nevertheless, Land is still a free market.

Brexit will make a difference in subsidies and margins which are already very small will reduce further.

Climate change will drive tree planting and NS is keen on huts but not holiday homes.

DJ expressed the need for much better understanding across the communities

Government needs to be more active in stewardship and technology is becoming very important.

The Land Register is improving. Common Good needs to be better document (AW).

AW is looking forward to a new Land Reform Bill hopefully next years

But surprising the meeting was low key with little acrimony.

If I could have remembered the Author I would have stood up and quoted Mark Twain

“Buy land. They ain’t making any more of the stuff.”

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July 22, 2016

Two weeks in The Western Isles – Barra to the Butt

Filed under: Land Ownership, Lesley Riddoch, Linda Norgrove, Music, Painting, Scotland, Travel — derryvickers @ 7:30 pm

Barra

  • Wind, Sea and Vatersay seasky
    • New road across from Barra. But there in LR’s time
      • EU supported
  • Kisimil castle – right in the middle of Castlebay
    • Get there by boat
    • Lovely restored wee castle of the MacNeils Kilmil
  • Kisimil restaurant
    • Not to be missed – need to book
  • Weather had been bad on first day and in the North saw three Twin Otters land within the hour the next

 

South Uist

  • Ceolas at Dalburgh –
  • Music Summer school
  • http://www.ceolas.co.uk/summer/
  • Ceilidh
  • Two young accordionists
  • Patsy Reid- excellent Scottish Fiddle Player
    • Did not play much at the evening we attended but she may have continued later
    • Tutor in Fiddle
  • Step dancing – people just got up one by one and danced
  • Mountains all down the East Coast
  • Machair on the West
    • glorious flower drenched in the sun
    • machair

 

North Uist

  • Balranald RSPB reserve
    • Otters but we never saw it
    • Oystercatchers in profusion, ringed plovers, dunlins
  • BB with Jac
    • Excellent house
      • Got the sun room
    • Artist – colourful landscapes
    • Views from our window great
    • Not easy to find restaurant
  • Chambered Cairn cairn
    • Unfortunately entrance recently blocked
  • Trinity Temple
    • Believed to be oldest university in Britain
    • Dun Scotus University

South Harris

  • Golden Road
    • Built in 1937 – so called as so costly to build
      • Must have been recently rebuilt
    • Harris Tweed shops and museum
    • Community café – excellent
  • Coffin Road
    • Ground too hard to bury dead in East
    • More likely because people wished to bury their dead in the cemeteries of ancestors, which were on west
      • People evicted from Seilebost in west to stony, poor ground in the east
    • Excellent walk over bealach
      • resurfaced
  • Scalpay
    • New bridge opened by Tony Blair
    • Fish restaurant – quality fish at a price – locally caught
    • No lack of small boats in small harbours with small jetties
      • Run by Community
        • A general situation in the Outer Isles
  • More Harris
    • One eagle observed from Eagle Observatory
    • Sight of St Kilda from Huishinish – Far West
    • Luckentyre – lovely beach but two cemeteries
    • North Harris Community buy out
    • Harris is very mountainous
      •  All over

Lewis

    • Lewis is flat
    • Old Village at the end of the road, Orasaigh OldVillage
    • Ravenspoint museum
      • Unbelievable collection of old documents and photos off South Lewis
    • Callanish – stones fabulous
      • Callanish 1 2 3 etc
    • Black houses occupied till 1940
    • Harris tweed made largely in Lewis
      • Calloway loom – Hattersley 60 inch now out of production
        • Complex to set up
        • To be classed as Harris tweed it must be woven at home Hattersley
      • Norman Mackenzie
      • Isle of Berneray
      • Good walk
      • Iron Age House
    • Uig
      • Mangersta
      • Restaurant
      • Glen Bhaltois – geology
    • Butt of Lewis
      • Birds
        • Gannets diving, fulmars nesting, kittiwakes, shags fishing and nesting, terns, ravens
        • Fulmars unbelievable fliers when close to cliffs
      • Lighthouse TheButtLight
      • St Moluag’s Church ButtChurch
      • Crofts not being crofted
    • Pol’s Pantry
      • Excellent food
        • Chef saved a buzzard caught in barred wire Buzzard

General

    • Roads of good quality and surface
    • Communities very much on the move
    • Plant trees, protect them and they grow
    • Difficulty of cash machines – then we find them in Post Offices but they close at 5pm
    • Great that CalMac kept the Western Isles Ferry contract
    • For a better travelogue with people read Lesley Riddoch – On the Outer Hebrides

October 18, 2015

Land In Scotland and its Future

Filed under: Land Ownership, Scotland — derryvickers @ 9:18 pm

The State of Crofting in Camuscross

A Report by Iain MacKinnon & Susan Walker

A couple of recent items have made me turn again to Land Reform

  1. The SNP Conference ‘concern’ on the current Land Reform Bill
  2. Visiting Blair Castle and considering the Atholl Estates Together this led me to turn again to Andy Wightman’s ‘The poor had no lawyers’ and look up the size of the Atholl Estates and I find they are the third largest in Scotland. The italics are mine and I make no apologies for not putting the quotes in strict page number order

From the report I picked out the following quotes that underpin the meaning of land in Scotland and exemplify the two sides of the Scottish Coin: People and Land.

And turning the pages as one does I came across reference to a report by Iain Mackinnon and Susan Walker on crofting at Camus Cross in Sleat on the Isle of Skye. I know Camus Cross so I dug further – which means I went to the Web and found the report!

The Conclusions

Page 30

As our report has tried to make clear, in this township we have suffered, and are still suffering, examples of misuse of and capitalisation on croft land and common land. Each time this occurs it further weakens the sense, still prevailing among some crofters, that the land is more than merely a private economic resource. This indigenous understanding of stewardship of the land as a resource to be treasured for the livelihood of future generations sits uneasily with the prevailing short-term consumer mentality in our society

However, as our society struggles to come to terms with the reality of ecological limits to growth, this understanding of the land as a place where a community of people make their lives in the long term is re-emerging as one which makes sense. For crofting townships where this sense of place and community is still felt to be important, it is essential that ways are found to support and protect it.

Page 31

In the months ahead we need good leadership from our Scottish Parliament to reform the Crofters Commission into a decision making body with the crofting interest at its heart and the will to tackle the issues that need to be tackled if crofting communities, and the people who choose to be part of them, are to thrive.

Page 29

In the words of the leading Scottish rural affairs academic, John Bryden ( I take this is the same John Bryden who spoke recently at a Nordic Horizons) , the Scottish Parliament has begun the process of creating ‘a community centric land reform legislation’ (Well hopefully it will now start to). In the social transformation such legislation is intended to create, it is crofting communities that are showing the confidence and the talent in leading the way.

The report has the headline statement

“Thèid dùthchas an aghaidh nan creag”

(Kinship withstands the rocksGaelic proverb)

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