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

Posts tagged ‘Drumossie Hotel’

“Hold Fast” “Your Dinner is in your Wellies”

Sitting down now with the Glasgow game on in the background, van unpacked and a breakfast for tea. A fine couple of days of land reforming politics at Inverness. Began yesterday with a dart out to the Varuna to pick up some prawns for the Loch Ness Inn and set off via the field where the bore holes were to be drilled to test the sink hole that has appeared beside the turbine house site.


Local opinion is that it should be okay as it was the old route of the river before it was straightened for the mill wheel at the farm. Better safe than sorry. No drilling done by the time I left and it seems none done as it was too wet for the rig to make it across the field. Hoping it is a minor setback, as if we have not had enough of them over the years.

Prawns delivered and made it in time for a quick plate of soup and sandwiches before launching into a full afternoon of politics and community ownership. Had a couple of talks from the Chair David Cameron, Peter Peacock and then Jim Hunter before breaking up into workshop groups where we heard from Gigha and Colintrive/Glendarual. A long and detailed policy talk from Peter outlined the huge amount of work done by the CLS in lobbying for the people who want to improve the prospects for the communities they live in. Gigha has been in the news recently for being “heavily in debt”. I was interested in hearing the Gigha side of the story. Only 40odd houses have been renovated, population increased from 98 to 168, numerous small businesses set up and a debt restructuring. The last has been the issue that caused such a furore in the press, have to say right-wing press mainly, a debt restructuring that any company can go through from time to time and would not raise an eyebrow normally. But we have an agenda driven press now, just something we have to live with. Came home to fb posts showing Lord Astor pontificating on his views on what is happening in Scotland. A common theme running through all the conferences I go to is that Scotland is unique in Europe. No other country has such a large concentration of land in so few hands. Other countries have had their land ownership revolutions 150/200 years ago. Maybe it is time to stop being coy and indirect and just start saying the way you see it. Heard a lot about the Human Rights of the landlord in recent times. Surely the Human Rights of a community supersedes that of an absentee landlord who claims that the community, ie the people, have nothing to do with him. (And Glasgow win). The responsibility of owning such large amounts of land must extend to the residents of that community. 432 people own 50 percent of Scotland’s land. That would mean Inverness would be owned by seven people. Funny how when a landlord gets a subsidy, whether it is SFP, lottery, or public funds it is called investment and partnership, working with government, but when it is a community who receive payments they are subsidy junkies and a drain on the state. How easy it is to play with words and create such a distorted image of what is actually on the ground.

Had a wee break there with Dougal and Eilidh and read that Astor article. It is almost parody, maybe not for the people of Jura. The slave trade was brought up and like every thing it had a local context. The US Civil War resulted in the repatriation of a valuable asset with no compensation. 150 years on and very few around now would argue against the freedom of slaves. No one is saying the same for land but it makes one wonder what will be said in 150 years from now.

Governance was a topic that ran through all the contributions from the practical level. Even communities that have been underway for a lot longer than us have or have had these issues. This morning Lorne Macleod, our new Chair, opened the day with the Macleod Clan motto, “Hold Fast”. Lorne appeared in Applecross to give a talk about how we could go about setting up a Community Company to run our Filling Station and possibly other ventures. Seems a lifetime ago. So relevant as obstacles appear both at local and national levels all the time. Wether it is state aid, funding, planning and just burn out, all these are issues that need to be overcome to allow communities to be sustainable and not be a subsidy drain on the nation. Land values and house prices are a big problem and now we are faced with the first generation which will be worse off than the previous one. Since the Single Farm Payment land values have tripled. A crofting estate on the western isles was bought for £180,000 but if a salmon river just to the south had been included the price would have gone up by £600,000, 160 salmon caught on the river annually. There was a call for land values to truly reflect income generated from source, not inflated investment values. New influx of investors heading north, instead of buying a Picasso or Ferrari they buy an estate, unfortunately treating the communities like they would the Ferrari. Good to hear Aileen Macleod, MSP, talk about radical change, mostly questioned by the well-known in the room. But the questioners know us and our problems so they are a good link to the government and to influence policy in a responsible way. Shouting about Mugabe politics is not helping the discussion. Good down to earth practical discussions took place over the two days and the only phrase that competed with “Hold Fast” was “The dinner is in your wellies.”  Sandra explained she was out in the islands and involved in a long late night discussion with some directors about some lease or other. One of the younger directors got a text stating the above and showed how much time and energy is involved with the future of our communities. Much energy is expended in turning around the often semi derelict estates and “the dinner in the wellies” is a graphic description of how lives are affected by all this effort. So much else was talked about, the danger of wilderness designated areas closed off for repopulation, the fact that some estates cannot be bought out by the community as they have already been cleared. There is no longer a community there. Fine comments and questions asked throughout the two days. Defining the public interest, fiscal and tax policies to reduce the value of land, reducing the difficulties some agencies put in place to access funding and of course state aid. Rob Gibson gave a talk this morning about his influences and journey to date involving land reform. Patience is a commodity needed for the journey.

In between there were many social conversations, walks with Dougal And Eilidh who met Midge and Braken both from Mull in their wanders out the back of the Drumossie,




and storm damage to check out as well.




Managed a migraine during the meal but survived with a withdrawal and blurry vision and fine this morning. Bit of a worry in seeing and hearing how stressed some of the LDOs are trying the work miracles in their own communities. Quick shop around town and a stop off at Rogie Falls,


becoming a favourite for the dogs.


Home by six, inspiration over severe future challenges has to take presidence to get us through the hurdles of the next few years. The climate is definitely changing and not before time. As well as the above managed a couple of lawyer and affordable housing chats. Gone are the days when deer are more important than people. And finally at Drumossie you come across something that is  so appropriate. No apologies for being so political, it is now part of life, both rural and urban, in Scotland.


Local Development Officers,Deep Peace and Waxwings.

Two parter. Have to stop and watch the rugby soon so this will not be finished until after the shift at the Inn this evening. Watching the pre match warm up to see if I can spot my youngest red-headed son playing the pipes on the pitch before the game starts and then watch the game through spread fingers. Have to say I really enjoyed last weeks game against the All Blacks. Expecting a big defeat but instead saw Scotland score three tries enjoyed a great game of class rugby. So the fire is on, the washing done and drying in front of it,lunch made and eaten Dougal and family walked and fed with only some book work to do before the end of the day which can be classed as work. Must get into this twitter lark. It does seem to be good craic. As I do not usually lose it but also have a sense of humour, warped maybe but it is there, it could be good for a bit of a wind up for those who tend to take themselves a tiny bit too seriously. So it will be a busy couple of days. Yesterday Alison and I went to Inverness to attend a two-day gathering at the Drumossie Hotel held by HIE for directors and local development officers. I suppose I was being a political activist but it felt good and we chatted all day about the problems in fragile communities and went to presentations from other communities and heard about their successes and failures, which is just as important. No one accepts what you say without you having to argue and justify your views and it is really good for the brain cells these gatherings. More directors should go to these meetings as they constantly broaden your mind. Although there is a natural tendency at these get togethers of the opinion that the communities themselves are the ones that should be having a say in the running of the community you still have to argue your case well as you are often presented with the what if point of view. The editorial in the WHFP this week pointed out the geographic control that Wester Ross suffers under but I honestly believe that the Community Company has done some amazing work in the last couple of years. The reason I say that is when I go out and see the reactions from other people about what we are doing I see that we are looked at with a positive envy. Seems there was a short article in the Times about the situation here and seemed fairly uncontroversial, by that I mean no one living in the schoolhouse was in it. Saturday at Drumossie involved the problem rural areas have with housing and there seemed to be many and is earmarked as a problem in many of the draft plans so far submitted. Many of the plans have increases in current populations as an objective.

But in the middle of all this I left to go across town to say goodbye to yet another friend. After seeing the beautiful photo of Jenny on the back of the order of service,reading

Deep peace of the running wave to you

Deep peace of the flowing air to you

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you

Deep peace of the shining stars to you

Deep peace of the infinite peace to you

This from Dominion of Dreams under a Dark Star, hearing the lovely description of Jenny as “a pattern of Light”, giving Mike a hug there is nothing more to say but reflect that it has not been a year of joy for many people I know. Kishorn shop was always a quiet and peaceful place to stop at on the way home.

Back to the hotel to learn more and talk more, not forgetting the meal in the evening where it turns out that I may have found a relative from Lewis sitting across from me. Her dad came from Arrina on the north coast and was a Macbeath as was my granny from Fearnmor alongside many connections to the situation back home. We will be moving on now and I think a few people are a little weary of all the attention and want to get back to living. Home late and left Alison to stay for the next day’s seminars. I’ll be asking who John and Christine Macbeath are the next time I see the man from Camusterrach.

Busy couple of shifts at the Inn both last night and all day today although it had quietened off by 3.30pm this afternoon there were customers waiting for tables. The staff levels were pretty sparse due to the concert in Edinburgh and it was left to the Boss and I to man the pumps. good craic as usual and too busy to watch the clock, a good problem in november. And lots of positive conversations with residents about the Company work and people planning to go to the AGM to support the work we are doing. Although we will never stop the rumour mill going we may be able to scorch one or two of them, but they do make life more interesting for some.

Birds every where just now. We have been inundated with waxwings and they are chomping their way through the rowan berries of which there are plenty. Took these photos at the Church at the top of Camusterrach this morning and as I was leaving the house there were about 100 flying back and fro to the trees in the garden and to the south. Including the tree below the wires there were another 150+ around this area. Seems a bad season further east and it has been an unusual year for such high numbers here.

And at the Inn as I was heading to the store for a lemon for the bar I was just too late for a great photo opp but managed a couple that were ok of four swans heading down the bay towards their favourite spot on Milton loch.

The competition has reached 75 with Iraq arriving last night.

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