We've just heard that the Paterson family have come to a settlement with their landlord through mediation, but it does not include a new lease to remain on the farm, so the Patersons will be leaving on the 28th after the sale of their farm equipment this Thursday leaving the farm to be managed by landowner Charles Fforde. It is almost exactly what happened to Andrew Stoddart in East Lothian last year -- similar also because the Scottish Government refused to join the mediation (despite promising earlier they would) and refused to accept responsibility for the faulty legislation of a previous Scottish Government. That's what has left the Patersons and eight other tenant farmer families vulnerable to eviction. I understand quite a few network TV and radio progs are heading to Arran for the farm sale. Last week outside the Scottish Parliament Ian Paterson invited Nicola Sturgeon and Fergus Ewing to attend too so they could see what it actually means to be hung out to dry. Perhaps Scotgov lawyers think this will all be quickly forgotten. It won't
Posted at 04:29 PM | Permalink
| | | | |
It seems land reform is in danger of becoming an internal conversation between Scottish Government Ministers and their lawyers. One year after Andrew Stoddart's eviction date, another tenant farmer family -- the Patersons of Arran -- are selling off their livestock, farm equipment and furniture and trying to prepare mentally for their own eviction in precisely two weeks. A motion by Andy Wightman calling for emergency legislation to halt their eviction has been semi-scuppered by the Paterson's own MSP Kenny Gibson who proposed an amendment removing criticism of the Scottish Government and a demand for tripartite mediation. Meanwhile the word is the Scottish Government will not step in (even though they accept it was a previous Scotgov's faulty law that these tenants were left so vulnerable to capricious landlords). Surely it's time to put people before procedure, action before risk aversion and determination to stop these evictions before preciousness about criticism. That's why #OurLand has called a demonstration of solidarity with the tenant farmers for tomorrow (Thursday 17th Nov) at 1pm outside the public entrance to the Scottish Parliament. If you care about social justice, there is no other cause that needs your support more on Thursday. If you can make it for even 30 minutes at 1pm these farming families will be forever grateful".
Posted at 05:38 PM | Permalink
| | | | |
I was speaking at a great event on local democracy at Kirriemuir last night during which local SNP MSP Graeme said a fairly astonishing thing. He seemed to suggest the Scottish Government is going to vet the suitability of candidates for community councils because some are unfit for office. When I challenged him on this he said this request had actually come from community councils. I hope I got this wrong – if not, this is outrageous. Community councils have been all but hobbled since they were set up as ineffective, toothless, talking-shops in 1973 with an average budget of £400 per annum to be spent on stationery. Elections don’t have to happen because there is no upper limit on size and due to the powerless nature of their statutory functions (none) relatively few folk are attracted to stand anyway. This summer Dumfries and Galloway simply dissolved 38 of its 91 community councils. The SNP aren’t responsible for how community councils were initially set up but they certainly are responsible for NOT improving matters via the Community Empowerment Act (CEA) 2015 which neither gave community councils a proper role in our governance system nor whacked them on the heid to put them out of their misery.
As convener of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee Graeme Dey spent some time debating the CEA, so he must know why the SNP saw fit to let community councils limp on. Don’t get me wrong – I’m criticizing the structure, not the folk. Most community councils attract earnest, well meaning, hard-working people who in any other country would be councillors in a genuinely local and powerful town or island council. Of course there are gatekeepers, bampots, self-important busybodies and a very few undesirable folk – all of whom would be weeded out if toothless community councils were abolished and replaced with real local councils invigorated by proper ELECTIONS, real POWER and INCOME derived from taxes raised directly from local people instead of extracted from a grudging Holyrood. In other words, the standard of candidate (if it really is an issue) will be improved by giving Scotland a NORMAL system of local democracy as exists all over Europe. Here large, distant, bureaucratic regional-sized councils are allowed to masquerade as local government. The most depressing moment of the night was hearing valiant veteran Independent Councillor Vivian Dance say she felt ashamed to say she is a member of Argyll and Bute Council – so completely has their credibility been sunk by their actions over Castle Toward and trying to victimize and intimidate Vivien’s colleague Councillor Mike Breslin through a case thrown out yesterday by the Standards Commission. These councillors – and many others across Scotland – are doing their darndest to make a broken system of over-large, topdown “local” democracy work – but it can’t work. The reason the Scottish Government can propose bypassing councils in so many policy areas from police and education to childcare, is that our current councils are completely unloved. Only 38 per cent of Scots turned out to vote in local elections last time around and hardly anyone knows their councillor – but that’s been read by politicians of all parties (save the Greens) as a sign that formal, representative local democracy simply doesn’t matter or can’t be made to work. Now a host of informal arrangements look set to be formed between the Scottish Government and unsupported community groups instead. As those who ken me will know – I’m all for community control. But why does it have to happen outwith and despite the official structures? In any other northern democracy the folk behind community land buyouts or asset transfers or voluntary services would BE councilors in a truly local council – not the folk pushing against the faceless authority of some distant HQ.
The structure of local democracy in Scotland is broken – even the umbrella body representing councils (COSLA) has said so – and yet the Scottish Government’s response to date has been a detail-free promise by John Swinney at last week’s SNP conference promising more power for communities. But there’s to be NO change to the powerless nature of community councils. I hope someone can reassure me the Scottish Government has no plans to vet candidates from a different tier of government – or indeed from any tier. And the sooner we hear John Swinney announce a bold devolution of power to truly local councils – the better.
Posted at 12:43 PM | Permalink
| | | | |
Posted at 04:08 PM | Permalink
| | | | |
Are you interested or indeed very worried about life after Brexit? If you are, the next Nordic Horizons event is for you. The Nordic nations manage to co-exist quite happily with every possible variation of relationship with the EU – in (Finland, Sweden, Denmark) out (Iceland and Norway) and shake it all about (Faroes and Greenland who are out while the “Mother Ship” Denmark is in). These two tiny Nordic players have no formal agreement with the EU, whilst Norway pays quite a bit to retain access to the single market. So quite a bit of variation. Surely in all of this there are lessons for Scotland to learn – as a devolved government within the UK or possibly a small northern independent state sometime in the future.So we’ve brought an interesting collection of speakers together for an afternoon conference aimed at the intelligent general public - not just academic specialists. It'll be opened by the Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop and speakers include;
Professor Mary Hilson – author of The Nordic Model, excellent Nordic Horizons speaker and now historian in the Dept of Culture and Society at Aarhus University Denmark will give a contemporary an historical overview of the Nordic nations and the EU.
Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson - ex leader of Iceland's Social Democratic Party and former Minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs was responsible for their negotiations to join the EEA in the 1990's. He will reflect on both EFTA in 1970’s and EEA - how Iceland achieved exemptions on fishing/agriculture - the pros/cons of that – and Iceland’s temporary post-crash desire to be in the Euro BUT not the EU.
Tuomas Iso-Markku, Research Fellow, at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. Will reflect on why Finland appears to have a different relationship with the EU than many of its Nordic neighbours. An important point for Finns is security - Russia is next door -- and he'll address the dangers of being a small but vocal EU member.
Ulrik Pram Gad is Associate Professor of Arctic Culture and Politics at University of Aalborg, Denmark and recently published a paper on the triangular relation between Greenland, Denmark and the EU (quoted by Nicola Sturgeon). From 1998 to 2002 he worked for the Government of Greenland in Nuuk. Will discuss whether Scotland could do “a reverse Greenland'.
Dr. Duncan Halley, Scots born but now at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research - will discuss the advantages for Norway of controlling its land use, fisheries, and conservation outside the EU and will speculate on similar advantages for Scotland. Duncan gave a brilliant Nordic Horizons talk comparing land use and forestry in the Scottish Highlands and SW Norway in 2015.
Bjort Samuelsen – is a Republican MP in the Faroese Parliament, Member of the West Nordic Council and was Minister for Trade and Industry, Infrastructure and Gender Equality in 2008. She was originally a journalist and worked for Norwegian and Faroe Islands Broadcasting. Bjort will explain why the Faroes decided not to join the EU with Denmark in the 1970s and discuss how easy it has been outside all trade blocs as a nation of just 49k people.
After these speakers we will have a final session asking if anything we’ve heard has relevance for Scotland. Amongst the contributors in that final session will be; the Chair of the Scottish Parliament’s Europe & External Affairs Committee Joan McAlpine, Professors Andrew Scott and James Mitchell from University of Edinburgh, the author of A Utopia Like any Other, Dominic Hinde and hopefully Labour MEP Catherine Stihler.
The event has been organized by Nordic Horizons volunteers together with Edinburgh University’s Academy of Government and speakers’ costs have been met by a Scottish Government grant. We are charging for the first time to help pay for tea and coffee on the day and help us cover the cost of meals for speakers. So it’s a mighty £3 – though it can be free for anyone or any groups like college students or school pupils – in which case contact Dan Wynn firstname.lastname@example.org
For everyone able to pay though, please book tickets via this Eventbrite link. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/scotland-after-brexit-lessons-from-the-nordics-tickets-28097920637
I think this will be a stonking event – I hope we’ll see you there and pass this on to anyone who might be interested.
Posted at 09:44 PM | Permalink
| | | | |
Greek Nirvana on Zante
Folks - some of you know what it's like. You're on your own for the first time in a fair wee while and long to go abroad for sun, swimming and general relaxation. But none of your friends have time to go on holiday when you do and every destination seems to be aimed at couples, families and kids. And you are on yer tod. Well, I've landed on my feet at the fabulous Lithies Hotel http://www.lithies.gr in the very north of Zante or Zakynthos -- the third largest of the Greek Ionian Islands. Zante is famous for its very photographed Shipwreck Bay (someone told me recently the wrecked boat was actually Clydebuilt?!) and its best avoided "get drunk quick" resort of Laganas near the airport in the south of the island.
One and a half hours north - by bus or hire car -- sits the most northerly hotel, the Lithies, run by the friendly young mum Matina. It's small, relaxed and laid back with lovely wee areas to sit and do a PhD in the sun, free bikes for evening mini-hikes, a quiet pool and a 30 minute walk from the best snorkelling in the island from the foot of the steps at the Korithi windmill near the Blue Caves. All the rooms have a shaded balcony and a mini kitchen area. Most are triple bedded (theres a few feisty young families here) but there are smaller ones too and that makes a stay affordable for lone travellers. But it's the big Matina welcome (inc a gal-friendly welcome pack with a wee brush to detangle your hair) which makes the difference. Already this is like a home from home and I know I'll be back. Matina says August is busy (there are folk here from the Netherlands, France, Brazil and England) but May-July is generally quiet. So I thought I should alert fellow Scots -- July IS QUIET!!!! Maybe a thought for 2017. The Lithies has a five star rating on TripAdvisor too https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g6772390-d1488832-Reviews-Lithies_Studios_Apartments-Korithi_Zakynthos_Ionian_Islands.html Blissfully there is only limited broadband (and none when its windy). So I can't post any pics yet.
Righty. Back to the PhD.
Posted at 10:55 AM | Permalink
| | | | |
I was fascinated by the story behind a feisty fringe production starring an old friend of mine Matthew Zajac. Mungo Park – Travels in the Interior of Africa is on at Summerhall and tells the extraordinary story of Mungo Park. I had not really heard of this Scots explorer – even though he was apparently so famous during his own lifetime that he appears in the pages of Middlemarch. In 1795 and 1805, Park, an idealistic Scottish doctor, led two epic expeditions to West Africa, at the behest of the Royal Society and the British Government, to map the River Niger and investigate tales of vast gold wealth. Park died on the second expedition, along with nearly all of his party but his journal survived. The company – a joint effort between Dogstar from the Highlands and the Danish Mungo Park company (nope no-one quite know whay they have that name!) describe the play as “a theatrically daring tragi-comedy, with the 18th century figure of Park interacting with two young men from today. As the narrative moves towards its latter stages, the folly of Park’s project and its development into an ever more crazy and violent colonial adventure is brutally exposed.” I won’t spoil it for you but it’s an all-action performance – as gamely improvised as the expedition itself. And Matthew is fabulous as the naïve, peace-loving surgeon, unaware that colonial power is using him until it's too late. The play runs at Summerhall till August 27th and then tours throughout Scotland until September 25th, ending at Mungo Park’s birthplace, Selkirk. Then it’s off for a tour of Scandinavia in 2017. More details at www.dogstartheatre.co.uk
Posted at 10:08 AM | Permalink
| | | | |
The Press and Journal reports that David and Samantha Cameron are set to buy a £10.5million Aberdeenshire sporting estate. If that's true they cant be v worried about "radical" land reform. Is that complacent or correct? http://www.thenational.scot/comment/lesley-riddoch-cameron-eyes-up-scottish-estate-despite-radical-land-reform.21047
Posted at 02:44 PM | Permalink
| | | | |
I'm finally getting to grips with 6 years worth of Huts PhD paperwork from Norway, Scotland and beyond in a wee house near Mogan in Gran Canaria. Utter bliss sitting outside overlooking mountain and banana farm - inside the main bed is big enough to get all the bumf organised under chapter headings. A local family owns the cottage and they live next door -- so there's been a wee stream of fresh eggs, papaya and flowers. So sweet. Away from madding throng but close enough to coast for occasional snorkel and coffee with my pal Stephanie who's here with her daughter to get her scuba diving certificate and in other direction for walks in higher mountains (and hair raising drives), I can't recommend this wee place highly enough. https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/VacationRentalReview-g664857-d6641815-CASA_RURAL_TINO-Puerto_de_Mogan_Mogan_Gran_Canaria_Canary_Islands.html
Posted at 01:50 PM | Permalink
| | | | |