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

Posts tagged ‘local politics’

There is Freedom of Speech,isn’t There?

Things have settled down a little at The Inn but not until after a really busy Sunday lunch with lots of people waiting for a table. By 3.30pm it was a lot quieter and the staff managed to take their regular breaks, which helps every one’s moods somewhat. Funny what you get used to when asked if it was busy and the answer is no but people still have to wait for tables, most establishments would settle for that being really busy!! Last night and into this morning was recovery time. No concentration but casually flicking channels and noting there was nothing but rubbish on. Did manage to stay awake for the nine and a half seconds Bolt took to win his race, but apart from that the other highlight of the evening was the sky around 9.30pm.


Took the camera and the Jenny and Eilidh out for a wander and beautiful to watch. No photos do it justice but I keep trying and on the way back I keep seeing equally wonderful plants on the ground.


Early on in the day there was a little gathering of tractors and the latest arrival in Toscaig was on display, a lovely little red Fergie.


This morning I was honestly hoping for a little more wind from the North West and settled down to watch Saturday’s episode of Top of The Lake. Pretty grim and unrelentingly brutal, underbelly of New Zealand life. As the wind was dropping and The Inn had no langoustine it was down to land some, what we now call”splitters”, a quick visit to the Filling Station to help a guy get diesel and then off out to catch some more for the menu. Slightly better than expected, that is the advantage of having low expectations. Anything quarter decent and you think you have a good day. As I went out around eleven I just hauled the 300 creels so not to be too late for the kitchen to cook them off. It is genuinely hard work to keep up as I saw three tables on a quiet afternoon tucking into them. Will have no problem once winter in justifying not going out. Hibernation is a natural state of mind for me.

It has generally been easy to keep the blog positive and even upbeat but every now and again something comes along to make you wonder about what drives some people to do the things they do. As it is around the 12th of August and the grouse moors open up for business there are a few articles in the papers questioning the still feudal system of land ownership in Scotland. The Observer editorial take on it was very interesting and I copied and pasted a couple of paragraphs.

“Painfully slowly, but surely nonetheless, the ancient and unearned privileges that have maintained the ownership of Scotland‘s wild and beautiful places in so few hands are being eroded. Many ordinary Scots are becoming aware of what, for centuries, had been the nation’s dirty big secret: that 432 landowners possess half of their country.

Very few Scots know much about the web of legislation that has been spun throughout their country’s post-Reformation history to keep this vast territory safely under lock and key. They know this though: that in a modern democratic state, such concentrated land ownership in the hands of so few is immoral.

The landed interests are also waking up to the prospect that the age of their dominion over man and beast on their property may be coming to an end. In the submissions by assorted landowners to the Land Reform Review Group, instituted last year by the Scottish government, a motif emerges, redolent of four centuries of casual entitlement: we are the best custodians of these places; we provide sustainable employment in communities; we protect the nation’s rare and wonderful species. While most have reluctantly accepted gradual reform, such as the series of successful community buy-outs, anything that smacks of being forced to sell land for the benefit of the community is anathema.

Such a development, the estate owners and their agents aver, would jeopardise the £350m annual cash injection that they provide to the fragile rural economy. This claim, though, does not stand up when set beside the participation levels in field sports of some of our Nordic neighbours, where the pattern of land ownership is markedly different from Scotland’s. Our European neighbours long ago threw off the ancient bonds of feudal ownership.

Radical land reform in Scotland will not radically alter the lifestyles of the landowners. No one is suggesting a Mugabe-style land grab or advocating unfair prices for land purchased, despite the fact that each of these characterised the transactions that secured some in their ancient piles.”

From time to time we suffer locally from outbursts regarding our views on land reform. Interesting to note that during Andy Wightman’s campaign last year I was on telly saying there was no “land grab” involved. You always get other people’s prejudices thrust on you for taking a point of view that sits uneasy with the establishment. Last year I was called to “account” over the campaign and it was easy to say that I had nothing to do with its organisation or conception but still had to endure a very unpleasant “dressing down” over an hour and a half. All pretty silly as you have work hard in trying to acknowledge any thing that is valuable for the community that comes from that source when you see how entrenched it is. Just recently there was an email selectively circulated with a nasty, personalised intro designed ,I think, only to isolate Alison and paint her as a trouble maker. I find this “stuff” very unprofessional and unhelpful but maybe inevitable as political bases are changing slightly. These defensive outbursts are so unnecessary as any one can see for themselves. The Alison Blog (3), strange title, as she has not got a blog, one from here is probably more than enough, was lifted from a comment stream about 8 weeks old,http://www.andywightman.com/?p=2801#comments and was around the time where it was minuted that there was to be no community wood coming from the Gateway/ALPS felling. I can leave any one to judge if Alison is the liar she is accused of being. I am sure by writing this I am going to have to duck but not writing it would mean this blog is not worth the paper it is written on. To sum up this is just bullying. So good to be able to go out to fish and leave some of the rubbish behind. Ironically I do not find my relationship with Richard under any pressure as the last time I saw him he arranged for me to take his nephew out on the Varuna, just wish he had gone to Last October’s ALPS meeting instead of going to the Hill. The underlying irony of all this is that if it was not for Alison exposing the Trust’s first appointee as a fraudster we would not have had ALPS or any awards received.

Letters, petitions and much energy expended by some.

Health all good again and have another couple of shifts under my belt at the Inn. Saturday evening was a very enjoyable one and would you believe it busy. At one stage we opened up the dinning room but customers decided to wait so they could sit by the fire. There was a couple from Whitby that reckoned I was more stressed out than they were about them finding a seat for their dinner. It means there a is a good banter and rapport by the end of the evening and they and me are very relaxed by the end of the evening. There were a couple of tables I had to ask to move for people so they could eat but luckily I knew them from my ever-expanding networks of ,hotel work, fishing, local politics and community “stuff”. And they got to sit by the fire half an hour later and all ends well. They are usually so happy with the good atmosphere, food and ambience that every one wants every one else to be content. it is such a simple way to live but can only be carried out in trusting company.

Local politics are back on the agenda and it would not be an honest blog if I ignored them. I knew there was a letter going to be sent to the press today and it was to be a rehash of the “confidential petition” that was selectively circulated round some of the community although I did not know it was to carry signatures,eight, with no surprises Like the “petition”I found the letter strange and was fairly irrelevant to everything that is being discussed about land reform,community survival both on a local and national level. It was the first “petition” I have ever heard of that was confidential but it was n’t and it’s only purpose was to gather as many signatures as possible so it ended up being very garbled. I do like discussion and argument but on an intelligent level and I am more than happy for people to disagree with me. It is a shame that the petitioners have completely missed the point of both the campaign and the role of the Community Company and the Community Council in the community. Usually when things get personal I know I am on safe ground because there is not a lot of logic in the opposing argument. Although some of what has been going on in the community has at times been fairly stressful I have to accept that as I have put my head over the parapet and expect the pelters coming my way. But as I have said before and will say again no one has come to me to complain that I am involved with running the Filling Station, or taking over and refurbishing the public toilets,or helping set up an income generating hydro scheme, or ,as announced, being picked by the Scottish Govt as one of six areas to drastically improve our broadband. For obvious reasons we chose particular sites to upgrade as part of a pilot scheme and the schoolhouse was one,even simple things like iplayer is now accessible for people working irregular hours,and our community has been recognised at national level as one that is positive and proactive. There is another announcement pending which we hope by the end of next year Applecross may have an 18 meg system. That is what we are aiming at. This is supported by the Community Council. At present the Company is involved in reinstating the pier at the Coal Shed so large numbers of artics do not truck wood out over the Coast road but is taken away by sea transport and we are left with a rebuilt vernacular pier that was a unloading point in the past for coal and other supplies brought in by sea. Even I am impressed by how much has been done in such a short time, and this does not include the toddlers play park and Doctor’s campaign, First Responders. Actually I am proud of this community and I am really sorry to have missed AppleX Factor as that appears to have been another example of what I am talking about.

I have often talked about the list above and it will only grow as the next generation come through and take over the reins set up in the last 3/4 years and as people realise that, with a little confidence, they will get involved and the capacity of this community will continue to grow. So with this in mind I turn to the Land Reform Scotland campaign, which does not change any of my views. I want to make it clear that I read The Guardian on Saturday and the WHFP on a Thursday, I don’t read the Telegraph or The Daily Mail although it is good that other people do for a bit of righter wing balance, just saying this so people know where I am coming from. Over the years I have read Who own’s Scotland and more recently The Poor Had No Lawyers, also Soil and Soul and enjoyed and got frustrated by the story of how the land was taken from the people who lived on it over the centuries but latterly this is changing and in many cases the land is being returned. Latest being the Island of Scalpay. What I really object to is this attack on our institutions to get to my own personal views. If people object so strongly to them that they have to go to the national press to miscall our Council and Company just to get at me, well I thought that some of those that signed this “petition” were better than that. A tweet stream tonight was going on about how the LAS statement in response to todays letter was not factual because two individuals had prior warning of the campaign. I am a little surprised that the letter/”petition” is being defended in this way as it fails on so many levels to make much sense. Surely if one is against LAS there are better arguments than the misleading aspersions to the the ones circulated in the letter. I suppose I have better “local” knowledge of who is involved but then I could not and do not comment on other communities until I get insights from people living there. How can anyone sign a “petition” supporting a strategic long-term plan that no one ,to my knowledge, has seen. To make it as clear as I can one of my crimes is that I met Andy Wightman in Lochcarron and was given prior warning of the LAS campaign, the most important part of this is the info was given in confidence and for me that is important. Over the years here I have been in the same situation several times and that confidence when asked for has never been broken. I went to Lochcarron as an individual, not as a director or councillor and believe we have moved on from the olden days when we had to be subservient in order to receive the patronage of the laird. This is 2012 for goodness sake. But as ever I am fortunate to be here now and this is only a tiny blip in the timeless history of Applecross. When I was on the “Forgotten” path the other day I listened to Darrell Scott’s Open Door on the ipod,brilliant. Just put it on again and it is a fine way to end a day along with the surprising release of writing this blog.

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