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

Getting back from my little trip the meal had finished but managed a quick coffee and a choccy and settled in to the raffle draw. Turned out to be a little extra ordinary as blue 121 came up and I won three days fishing on the Uist lochs courtesy of Storais Uist. Not usually involved with raffle prizes other than donating them I was a little shocked to have blue 122 come up four numbers later. This time it was the second top prize of a bolt of tweed. When I say second top prize I mean they are of equal status, amazing and I can only thank Storas Uibhist and North Harris Trust for their stunning prizes.

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Still enjoying the frisson of the Black Cullin sunset and the day’s chat and, after seeing to the dogs,

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I crossed over to the ceilidh. Usually where meeting up with the guys takes place. With this group of people it happens throughout the day as well so this was only an extension. Had some good craic with Davie, Andy and Calum with lots of invaluable advice and information heard and hopefully stored away. Late for me although I have had a bit of practice at the Inn lately, but slept lightly. Dogs, late returnees and lots of thoughts made for broken sleep. Up with Dougal at 5.15am, walked, and put in the car for me to doze till 7.30. So all packed up and taking the car down to the College for the benefit of the dogs I swung into the parking place to tuck in beside the minibus. The Merc was there in the next bay and it seemed like a slow motion incident that I knew was going to happen but could not stop. Clipped the bumper, felt sick and went to breakfast. Found David and told him about his car. He took it remarkably well, finished his breakfast and then made his way out to see the damage. By the time he came back I had all my details ready for him and whatever he wanted to do, fair enough. I reckon it could have been a new bumper but we ended up agreeing on £30 to the apprentice and a closing comment “There are far bigger things in the world to worry about”. All I can say is he is a fine man.

Back to the Conference and listening to Paul Wheelhouse address in the morning got us back into the mood and good to hear the political support and the commitment that the Land Fund is to be extended to 2020. The commitment to one million acres in Community ownership still stands and 40,000 acres have been added in the last year. It is also good to get our problems out there and Alison asked a very specific question about how difficult it is for Community Companies to combat Govt decisions on di minimus. Why can it not be project specific and not relate to an organisation’s activities when connected to Community benefit. My emails have made no impact but maybe it is a long haul. There does appear to be an acknowledgement of the problem and CLS are on the case. Then our passenger, Megan, who works for the charity Gobal Witness, spoke and it was fascinating hearing what is going on around the world, depressing as well. But the comparisons are similar. Our land grabs took place over 200/300 years ago and are taking centuries to correct. Trying to stop corporations and governments across the world doing the same simply to grab limited resources is an unending task. Off to our break out session and to hear and discuss in detail the fiscal history of land, property and business taxation. Not only that but to talk about possible solutions within the current structures and markets. No one is advocating what the Daily Mail calls “land grabs” however frustrated people feel about how the concentration of land has ended up. Have to admit that I felt a bit dazed after an hour and a half  of talk about recurrent taxation, capital and transfer tax, land tax, rates, council tax, NDR, LVT and offshore charities. One wee bit of information and graph I found interesting was the impact of tax on land, property and business. Business rates have meant that the increase in value of these properties have only risen incrementally while untaxed land and property taxed with the regressive council tax has risen out of sight and lost all correlation with incomes and land use. Land speculation has now become normal and is a problem as farmers, ordinary ones that is, are being priced out of what would be reasonable value to raise a crop.  I hope some of it stuck. A few mentions of wood and what is happening now with markets gave a clearer insight  on current trends. Another chat over lunch and then home. An interesting comment that stuck “Those in power do not really understand what power is”.  Really taken with the quiet dedication of people such as David Cameron, the real one as he is known, Peter Peacock and many others, the warmth of the welcomes and the “see you agains”.

The Jim Hunter quote ” Communities have a right ( irrespective of whether or not they excercise it) to control, benefit from and (ultimately) own land and other resources in their own vicinity.” will stick with me. My own thoughts but more succinctly put.

All these events are followed by a big dose of reality and mine was back at the Inn by four and from then on till after ten it was organised mayhem. Passed tent city at New Kelso, a secretly revealed event by Lowe Alpine that involves running up and down several mountains.

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Only running I do now is between tables at the Inn. Groups of bikers, families and birthday celebrants along with many ordinary punters and a full hotel of residents meant the shift flew by and not too much meaningful contact was made. Time certainly flew by. Rain had arrived

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and it was a conventional bike ride home in the wet. Hard work, and a deep sleep to follow.

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Always good to get back to the familiar sights of home.

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