A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

Firstly I would like to thank all the folk who have expressed their support for me as a person. Most folk I am acquainted with or friends with know that I do not seek the attention I have received over the last two or three weeks. My grandfather was given a croft in Toscaig over  100 years ago, he was welcomed into this community and from what I have heard about his life he returned that many times over. Although I know I fall far short of this in many aspects of my life that is what I aspire to, simply to be kind to others. The debate I had when starting a blog with Sam was great but the full implications have hit home recently. I do not regret anything I have written and, as said before, these are my views. Having just read an article in the WHFP I felt the familiar feeling of “oh no what now”. But having re read it the only thing that was missing and is important was the end of my reply to the question did I agree with Brian Wilson’s article the previous week. I quoted from a letter written by John Wills and ended by saying the enquiry had to be directed to the Trust as I could not answer it. I have picked up a lot of different comments and arguments over the past three weeks and most are very emotional. I had a very interesting conversation this morning with some one who is reading about this aspect of decision-making and had an interesting way of saying that most decisions we make are emotional and we then spend an enormous amount of time and intellect trying to justify them. The one thing I have never defended at anytime is the status quo because I do not think it is sustainable. There have been huge changes over the past 30 years that I have lived here. On the positive side there is a community pier, a community hall, healthy heritage centre and many other groups but against that you look at the school role of 8, an ageing population alongside a falling population, crisis campaigns to re install our PO and keep our medical services. Most people who live here love this place and regard it as the Sanctuary,some who have lived here all their lives may not desire the changes that have taken place since growing up here and many who have come in see Applecross as a Sanctuary from the outside world and may not want anything to change from when they first came, all perfectly understandable. The fact of the matter is Applecross is not and never has been divorced from the outside world. In the past the change has come slower due to its isolation. Possibly one of the problems in recent times has been the speeding up of communication systems and globalisation has opened up the area so much to visitors who appreciate the peninsula and are welcomed in as an important part of the economy. But part of the process I see is the increasing vulnerability of communities such as Applecross due to events outside our control. Climate change, food and fuel poverty but there are many people living here who believe that we have the solutions within this community and that is why the Community Company is working with the Trust in trying to secure a viable wood supply for the community. I accept the fact that the Trust has been set up with objectives which involve culture, heritage and the environment and trustees draw a distinct line between that and the social and economic needs of the community. I have argued with the Trustees that this is a false demarcation and there has to be a coming together of all these objectives.Sustainable development is in the remit of the Community Company and needs more support from the Trust. I do not think you can isolate the culture of this place from the economic and social needs of the people, maybe this is the root of our problems. I think this is the only criticism of the Trust that I have voiced.

On a practical point I have asked the link to my blog to be removed from the Community Company website. This blog has never been the spoken word of the Company and was fairly safe up until this political turn of events and it also keeps me free to express my views about life, fishing and community in the NW of Scotland, and I thought …….but so glad of the SEA course and the guys who were on it as it keeps me with a sense of realism.

I am not fearful of any campaign whether inside or outside Applecross and find the whole subject of land and land reform fascinating and I know this will not go away. There are many rumours, maybe even a petition to sign, and lots of opinions swirling around and I actually think this a good sign that the community is alive and kicking. This is what happened when the Community company was formed and since then we have a Community run Filling Station, just about to refurbish the Toilets and set up a pilot Community Broadband system, with the Hydro scheme making progress and looking at Toscaig pier and the surgery grounds, all for the benefit of the community and whatever happens this will continue. Very slowly the Community Company is increasing its capacity with more people actively joining in, the latest example being the sub committee to roll out the broadband throughout the rest of the community.

And you know, life goes on, with the fishing still holding up, a lovely day on the water on Tuesday with another hoped for tomorrow. It is good to get out there to get a proper perspective on things. Even living in such a beautiful place like this we do seem to complicate our lives so much but a day at sea seems to settle things down. It is a pity that it is raining hard today or I would be out watching my bees going about their business.Lovely black bees who seem to have settled into their new home. They are feeding well having scoffed 4 kilo of sugar since arriving in Applecross.

Not so good news on the hen front and I have admit temporary defeat at the hands of the pine marten. We were woken up to the screams of one of our remaining 3 and although rushing out at 2 am was unable to save her. Found lots of spraints around the house has meant that we have a pine marten that is practically resident with us. The remaining 2 have been taken down to the hen care home in Toscaig where hopefully they will have a happy life in amongst their new mates.

Speaking of which Aron, the ice cream man, is now finding it hard to keep up with demand at the Inn. Thetubs of ice cream are disappearing as fast as they are being made and are receiving as much praise as other excellent dishes. Had  milk chocolate and apple and bramble scoops last night for my “staff drink”. Sublime.

Comments on: "Feeling a little bit bruised but never bowed." (4)

  1. Rod Coldwell said:

    Whatever happens, keep faith with yourself. You write a well-balanced blog and I admire
    and support your views, and the articulate way you express yourself.

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      Thank you Rod. So far no one has stopped speaking to me in case they get “blogged”. I always try to be careful to protect people’s identity or views. That is why they are just mine and others who don’t agree hopefully will just get used to that.

  2. Alasdair, I’m sorry if my question about Brian Wilson’s article caused any awkwardness but if it’s any reassurance, your reply citing the Wills’ motivation for creating the Trust put everything perfectly into context for me. In making up my mind about things, I do find it so much more helpful just to have the facts laid out like that rather than listening to rhetoric and polemics.

    As you’ve already managed this splendidly once already, perhaps you could answer another question in my mind which is what sort of practical steps could the estate take to address the problems you’ve identified that the community faces (the falling school roll etc.) if, under the present or “new” management, it were to integrate the sustainability of the social and economic development of the community into its existing priorities?

    And finally, I’ve said this to you privately and will put it on record here that this blog has done more for me personally in learning about the challenges faced by a remote community like Apx than anything else. If it were up to me, I’d give it the blog equivalent of an OBE! I realise you are not the official voice of the community company but IMO you are excellent propaganda (in a positive sense of that word) for it and this blog should be required reading for anybody interested in the aims of the company and the community.

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      No problem with awkwardness. In a way that is the thing I admire most about the “campaign” in that the questions do not have to be answered by the community or individuals but the Trust. Emotional reactions however have meant that some Apx residents have re acted, I think without fully understanding all the implications. I have been caught up in it a bit as we all need scape goats.

      To answer the question, and this always frightens and is misinterpreted by older more conservative residents, creating a community which will attract new people is essential for the future. We can no longer rely on “locals” to keep our schools populated and enough people on the medical role etc. The broadband project is part of this in that some people can move here with their job and do not have to look for work. The community company can only go so far in improving the infra structure and housing is the key issue to the future. Some how we have to break through the mind sets of both crofters and the Trust that people are the future and access to land for a small but continual building program, job creation and income stream creation in itself, and seeing a community housing trust keeping housing under local control. Lots of areas of potential conflict but once the community good is accepted and capacity and self belief is built up the future can be bright.

      Right now my opinion is that “new management” is not an immediate option. What has happened has been a shock and once the dust has settled, which it will, the same problems are still there and will be addressed with maybe slightly different mindsets. I do not think we can progress with the same mindset and that may be the start of working together meaningfully. Assumptions of the past may no longer be relevant now.

      Appreciate your comments about the blog and am sure we will find something to disagree on in the future!!

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