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

Posts tagged ‘LRRG’

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.

Fishing is Tiring.

Another day, not so routine, as did not get down to the pier last night, being a bit knackered. That meant an hour and a half mending a fleet to take out this morning. Went out last night with Dougal and Co to see a wonderful sky.


It was changing all the time and met with Donald who is the author of most of the place names and graveyard mapping and pointed out I was spelling Caman wrong. Was a bit confused myself as I had thought that was the spelling but was confused by the place names version but think it may have been the genitive I was reading. The weather is really pleasant just now, the skies changing all the time.


Nothing to report on the fishing front as no improvement in sight and with the berried prawns coming on to the grounds the catch will be declining even further. Bit of a breeze today and was glad not at the Inn tonight. Tailing squats all the way home again today.


Reckon the Prep Room will not be saying much to me tomorrow. Homemade crab,squats and pineapple in a curried mayo for tea tonight, but that was after giving the very stinky hound, Dougal, a shower which he did not appreciate at all and seemed to resent it for quite a while after.


Wind down amusement meant reading some of the landlord submissions to the LRRG and I can only think how fortunate we are to be blessed with so many wonderful overlords who look after us so well in our wee patch of the world. It makes your heart burst with pride that, even when they do not live among us, they spend so much time on our welfare….or at least they say they do.

Migraine just a Memory.

On the way up to the inn on Wednesday looking north to the “Blind Sound” with the northerly breeze blowing, bright sunshine and a haze appearing across the water stopped for a photo and time out.


Through the Gap you can see the cliffs of Staffin and further off the Harris hills. Later, after taking Aron a lift home on the way back up the road the Chamain was looking so peaceful and this was at 10.45pm.


Dougal thinks he is tucked in for the night on the couch after collecting his seven ticks for the day.


Yesterday things ground to a halt, well they did not start as I woke up with a migraine well under way. Without going on too much about them they stop everything although this one was not too bad to cope with as I had missed the start of it and was comatose for about 6/8 hours yesterday while it was under way. Another added bonus was that I was only sick twice…so a good migraine but work out of the question and fretting over missing out on a beautiful day on the west.

The contrast this morning was complete, as at seven taking the dogs out for a wander over their domain,a listen to a Mhairi Campbell/Dave Francis composition, and then down to the pier for a day’s fishing on the Sound.


Most of the fleet was away at the same time this morning apart from the consistently early Kingfisher.


As expected the northerly breeze was up quite early and it was hard work but balanced against yesterdays fiasco it was a good to be alive day. Managed 400 pots up as I was trying to keep the Inn going for the weekend. I know they do not mean it but it is a little off-putting hearing some visitors complaining that they had travelled 400+ miles for the langoustine and why are they not on the menu. Explaining to them it is not a super market aisle that we go down and buy them off the shelf can be taken the wrong way. I think it is just symptomatic the way people live now. If they want something they just go out and buy it, and if they can’t, they don’t understand why not. My day was cut short, as I started hauling my last fleet of the day, a hydraulic pipe burst so it was away in with a few more prawns than expected. The weekend should be sorted at the Inn and we have some hanging in reserve over the side of the Varuna. Funny little moment occurred when hauling a fleet at Sand noticed bait not as I had left it and jumped to what turned out to be the wrong conclusion….some pirate was hauling my gear. Easily solved when I called Billy at Sand to see if they could track any new boats in the area. Hardly finished conversation when another boat called up, a little sheepish saying it was probably him as he was hauling another boat’s gear by arrangement and realised half way through the fleet that it was the wrong one. We have a good community of fishermen and it is good to know that there are no rogues at the creels and there has n’t been over the years I have been fishing….other methods of catching prawns has it fair share and just about to a man none live locally. It was around here a butter fish came up in a creel. Always good to say the fish I take photos of and do not keep to eat go back alive over the side. We do not do discards working the creels.


So left the Inn and some happy chefs cooking off langoustine, tails and squat tails. Alison is over in Skye at the Community Land gathering and will be meeting up with like-minded guys and networking, as one does. It is always good to get out to keep one’s perspective. The LRRG’s interim report has had a bit of an all round panning in the press and at Edinburgh. It just seems to concentrating purely on community ownership of land and there are so many more issues to be addressed than this. But it seems the prediction is that any reforms remain untouched until after the 2014 Referendum so as not to rock any establishment boats.

Who would have thought that Jeremy Vine would be mentioning Treacherous Orchestra on his prog, but that was the case today. Been listening to two fabulous new albums this week, Adam Sutherland’s Squall and Hugh Lawrie’s Did n’t it Rain. That as well as watching Nashville there is a little burst of good new music about just now.

Land Reform and Celtic Connections.

Attention was caught by the Church of Scotland’s submission to the LRRG and resurrected (no pun intended) hope that the Church is reconnecting with the needs of rural Scotland and its people. Being brought up a Free Presbyterian in a non Presbyterian village you were always a little on the outside of the social life of the community. Reluctantly allowed to get involved in the local football teams but was easily led astray when on the odd occasions of winning trophies in the SW Ross league, celebrating was de rigueur. As I have aged I now can look back in admiration at the people who led the breakaway in 1843 from the Established Church. There must have been so much at stake for them as the Church at that time relied on the patronage of the Laird, to the extent the ministers were appointed on the premise they would preach the “right” message. Those who left the Church in many cases gathered on hillsides to hear their lay preachers and there is one such place on the way into Plockton where to the best of my knowledge my maternal grandfather held forth to large gatherings, that was another breakaway and since then I think dogma has possibly become more important than the message. It was the newly formed Free Church who tried to help those made destitute during the potato famine. Now however after reading the submission can’t help feeling how the wrongs of the past ,if you wait long enough, are being repaired.

“If it is to reflect biblical priorities then land reform needs to be directed towards reversing the treatment of land as a status symbol or a commodity and dispersing the concentration of landownership. In so far as the bible recognises the deep interconnection between the justice and health of human society and the health and fertility of the land so land reform needs to reconnect the people and the land and place much greater emphasis on the need for owners of land to adhere to a land use policy aimed at restoring the biodiversity of the land and directing its use to the benefit of the community as a whole.” This is a quote from 2002 and is followed up in 2012 by stating not that much has altered since then. The four stated priorities of  reducing inequality, ending poverty, ensuring sustainability and promoting mutuality can be tackled through further land reform. They go on to point out that even the positive picture of Renewable energy, the proceeds are landlord based and the communities affected get the crumbs.

“Analysis of onshore wind power investments suggests that the 13GW of energy anticipated by the government to be installed by 2020 will pay landowners upwards of £100m a year in total rents, on top of the EU farm subsides they automatically receive for owning land.” Basically saying that the inequality of land ownership is being entrenched even more by public subsidies.

“The Church of Scotland strongly supports the development of community renewable energy schemes and calls upon the review panel to consider how land reform could support such schemes.” And they point out that huge subsidies are being paid to landowners while in energy rich Scotland fuel poverty is on the increase. This does seem a wee bit amiss for a country that prides itself on a sense of community and fairness.


So in the local scene there is little happening over the last couple of days that are worthy of note. Just a little tremor of excitement as tomorrow we are off to Glasgow to the Opening Concert of Celtic Connections where,Cara Dillon, Finlay Macdonald, Capercaillie, Flook, Phil Cunnigham, Julie Fowlis…..the list just goes on. Friday night it is off to see Darell Scot and Amy Helm, daughter of the renowned Levon. That I am looking forward to although the snow forecast for friday looks a bit dodgy. I always think how fortunate I am to live here, to be able to be politically aware and connected, while enjoying the beauty and companionship of the area and finally getting out to see top class music just down the road.

No “spoots” were being dug up yesterday… I suspects roofs on sheds were a greater priority.


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