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

Land and Water.

Alison was invited to a meeting of the Scottish Affairs Committee held in Inverness, the subject being land reform. Sounded really interesting and if nothing else I have learned about Chatham House Rules, under which conditions the meeting was held. Seems one can use the information from the meeting as long as you do not reveal the identity or the affiliation of the speaker. Here goes, no names or areas and generalisations all round but it still sounds fascinating all the same. Tenant farming featured large in the discussions with some fairly grim statistics. Interesting how land owners get around various legislation by giving out 364 day leases so hold the tenant in their thrall. One of the results of this is there is no grant money available to the tenant as they generally need five-year leases to comply with grant stipulations. Result is a continued degradation of the farm that is being tenanted. Also a story of a farm that is now surrounded by derelict farm buildings of the now defunct farms, derelict because of a completely disinterested landlord, with the result that the PO and shop was closed with the school in danger. There was interest from people wanting to work the farms but there were no leases available. There were submissions from a biodiversity point of view showing how the mono culture of red deer was so detrimental to the environment across the Highlands. These Committees meet to hear the problems and there may be amazing stories out there to counter this evidence but interestingly enough there was constant reference to the Scandinavian land models. Seems there are few ecology based jobs to the east as the smaller landholdings are worked and bio diversity is regarded as important to those that live and work the land.  Always aware they may have their own problems but when you hear that Danes can buy up a Scottish estate, pay no tax in this country, but are taxed in their own country for land they own here, sort of crazy one thinks. Land tax?? In our circumstance the most worrying case was stated by a community group who were constantly struggling to survive and it was suggested almost that it was too late, with so few people of a young enough age still in the area to turn the decline around. Sometimes when the mood is not as it should be you remember many more people staying in the community and far more children in a two teacher school. Often feel we have built up a false sense of security based on one industry….tourism. However over night things can change and the horizon can look so different, here it would be the reopening of the Kishorn Yard. Yesterday, all I did was go to the shop.

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Today we met up with Duncan and Mick from Highlandeco and Felix from CES and it was certainly absorbing and so much to take in. As I was heading up to the Inn to discuss hydro could not help seeing the result of all the overnight downpours. The little stream, Alt na Chriche,

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that was part of the first desk top study that can produce 50kw was flowing well, as was “our” stream.

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Any one that says being a director is a status symbol should have been there today. So much community level information and decisions to make but it was very uplifting to hear about the possibilities of using local power from a local green source and not giving up despite of the set backs we come across when dealing with the likes of SSE. Just a thought that crossed my little brain ….would it not be good to convert a company like SSE to putting the common good/weal in front of maximizing profits for shareholders. This would not mean they cannot make a profit but change the direction of their headlong plunge down the road of continually augmenting their assets and profits year on year. Back to the theme of lots of little energetic companies, like Highlandeco instead of these over large oligopolies that suppress fragile communities because there is not enough profit for them to bother with. So our discussions revolved around preaccreditation of FITs, CAR licence variations, the size and out puts of the turbines, control systems and generators. The loss 5% in the value of our FITs if we change the size in the future offset by the increased power sales by using the extra generated power in the vicinity of the turbine. How to set up the local power net work. The incentive for people to sign up, long but interesting conversations.

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The meeting was broken up by lunch during which I went down to the Bay with Dougal and Co,

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having put them in the car as I had taken them up alongside the bike. Big winkle picking tide, hard, but strangely satisfying work.

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Evening and the dogs are happy but no where to sit. And now it is another storm to sit through.

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Comments on: "Land and Water." (2)

  1. Shocked to hear that landowners are only giving out short leases, surely with grant money and improvements made to the land that can only increase the value of the property for the land owner at no cost to themselves, something surely any business person would want.

    I wasn’t surprised with that red deer management is detrimental to biodiversity, maintenance of open moorland in general is detrimental to biodiversity, red deer are beasts of the forest and thrive much better in woodland areas.

    Your part of the world has changed so much since I lived there in the 90’s when everyone relied on salmon farming and tourism for a living. But tourism does bring its problems namely affordable housing (one of the reasons I left no chance of buying a house).

    Unfortunately the powers that be seem to want to control communities instead of allowing them to become more self reliant, efficient and allowed to thrive which in turn would generate more for the economy in the long term. But hey that would be too easy.

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      The short term leases do not apply up here as you have security of tenure regarding the crofting areas, but yes they do give you a sense that the owners want complete control as that is the primary need rather than a community that thrives. Deer certainly have their place but sometimes I think they are more important than people in some places and decisions are taken on this basis. One or two concerns about the scope of the massive increase surrounding salmon farm production…..mind you some people living here think there are too many tourists. Can’t please every one all the time…

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