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

A Man of Assynt.

Friday evening; Sitting in Sleat after day one of the Community Land Scotland Conference AGM. Actually the AGM is taking place now but we are not members decided to head for the accommodation. Hot day so extra attention to spend time on the Dougal family, who are in the car at the moment. Planning a wee trip round to Ach na Cloich or Stonefield as it is in English. Try and time it for later around sunset time and compare to Applecross sunsets. To get Thursday out of the way, a bit of a non event for the work scene during the day, just a follow-up to the migraine. Wiped out and take a couple of days to get back on track. Made it up to the Inn and working an evening is a sure-fire way of keeping your mind of feeling not up to it. It was a little tense start to the evening as a couple of guests were put out a little by not getting what they expected. Have to say they left for their destinations very contented but it took a little extra effort from the out front guys. Lovely repeat guests that want to catch up with the Boss leaves us to sort out tables and keep things turning around.

So a quiet morning start, Alison has to get up early to do some essentials before heading off Sleat. Managed to get the cauliflowers into the ground, the battle with the slug hordes is still continuing. Most of the veg is still alive after replacing a few of the first wave which took the brunt of the onslaught last month. Some of the seed sowing has left a little to be desired. I set off up the road with Dougal and Co who were going to their first CLS AGM.

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Arrived at Sal Mor Ostaig with plenty of time for lunch, taking Megan with us and dropping Owen at DMks and straight into the start of the Conference. Throughout the two days the most striking aspect, I found, was the quiet determination of the movement. There was no loud rhetoric but statements that were being backed up by more and more surveys and studies that point to the people living on the land should be the ones most involved in taking the decisions that affect their day-to-day lives. David Allston opened the afternoon with a reference to Norman MacCaig’s A Man of Assynt

Who owns this landscape?

The millionaire who bought it or

the poacher staggering down the hill in the early morning

with a deer on his back?

Who possess this landscape?

The man who bought it or

I who am possessed by it?

I have already posted this and make no apologies for posting it again, a beautiful, evocative description of how many who live up this way are attached to their land.These words seem to reach back to a time immemorial when land was communal and those living on the land did not need a piece of paper allowing them to do so. The statistics are out there saying Scotland’s land ownership is the most concentrated in Europe and some argue that is no bad thing, but the concentration of wealth, influence and power in so few hands has to be questioned in a democracy.  Maybe Gandhi is right, democracy is worth a try out. The land that has moved into community ownership has become less dependant on patronage and residents there have began to work out how to stand on their own efforts, a monumental task after centuries of deference to a supposedly more learned establishment. It must be scary for certain communities to take that “independence” step and chatting at the end of the service last night it was pointed out that all we would do would be to scrap with each other. And our local minibus was used as an example. I used the same example by saying it is on the road and being used as much as it ever was. The process of getting it back on the road was painful and unnecessary but that is the nature of small village politics. As long as we talk to each other about our differing views we will be okay. I would far rather that than rely on one person’s distant patronage that only allows a community to function in an arbitrary way. It is only a matter of time before change takes place. How, when and whether in genuine partnership, depends on the personalities at the time. Amanda Bryan spoke in the afternoon about a study carried out on Community owned land. Their capital value is up by 244%, turnover by 254%, direct staffing by 368%, local direct spend 434%. They have brought in £34 million of which 53% was their own funds. All pretty impressive statistics and stand on their own. I do not know of any community that is badly run but at the same time am privy to lots of disagreements within them but at no time does anyone think that they have made the wrong decision to look after their own community. A freeing up from patronage must be good. The breakout session about affordable housing was very interesting and there was a follow up in what I said later in the evening. So much value to meeting with like minds.

An early evening walk Dougal and Co along the loop road that takes you to Tarskavaig was just the time out one needs to process the days meetings and chats, to put things in perspective and to bring a reality to the over-riding buzz of the day. Dougal meanwhile finds every ditch he can, ditches that are more muddy than wet.

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Lovely views of the Sound of Sleat and up Loch Nevis

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along with a preponderance of bluebells.

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The old tree catches the eye.

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A lovely meal and before I know it, it is 9.30 and I decided on the spur of the moment to take a little drive up the road to Ach na Cloich in the hope of seeing the sun drop in the west. Did not realise that coming over a little crest on the road that I would see this. Would be a fine end to a day but there was more to come.

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Comments on: "A Man of Assynt." (2)

  1. basketbob said:

    Ali – thanks for sharing your thoughts and photos as ever – all good stuff re communities. there will always be disagreements within communities, but agreeing to differ is healthy.
    I love the pic of the old tree, and that it is covered in lichens. I have noted with interest that here in Norfolk I am seeing more and more lichens on trees. When I first moved here 36 years ago, I don’t recall seeing any that were at all noticeable, and now all the trees on our place have them in varying degrees – a sign of healthy air, I’m told.

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      That is interesting. When I was kayaking on Johnson Strait the trees there were covered in lichen. I suppose the clear air would fit there.

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