Carbeth Hutters are on the move!

A Carbeth Hut

In Alaska, I’m told, folk can walk off into the forests and just build themselves a cabin. In Brazil, the Landless Workers’ Movement occupies unused land. In Nordic countries, people expect to be able to enjoy wee huts and summer cabins: Finland for example has more than half a million dotted about by lakes and in woodlands, where city folk can enjoy the simple, natural things their country has to offer.

Scotland, however has inherited a different set of values towards land. Inherited being an operative word in a country with enormous tracts of land owned (& now dealt in like any commodity) by a very few, while the majority of citizens are denied all but token access.

If ordinary people in Scotland wish to make use of land, then it’s necessary to wait, cap in hand, until a landowner somewhere decides some or all of her land can profitably be sold off. Scotland’s community buy-outs have all followed this pattern of anxious uncertainty over ownership (Eigg being a famous example) before communities are (sometimes graciously, mostly grudgingly) given the opportunity to raise large sums of money to buy land they have used and worked for generations.

Carbeth is no exception. After 13 years of dispute and rent strike and what some termed New Clearances, Carbeth folk were ‘offered’ the chance to buy the land that their small wooden huts stood on. Hutters had been using huts here since the early 1920s, paying small rents to a landowner for the privilege; escaping the grim working conditions of Clyde shipyards and schemes. A refuge for adults and children; a place to breathe in a country owned by others.

Three years to raise a large sum. Three years of forming a legal entity: a Community Company. Three years of community meetings, of settling how we raise money, of how much we can each afford to pay, of how much help we need. The determination of the descendants of those early socialists who roamed the nearby hills, who met at firesides, who danced and attended local Sunday Schools; the Red Clydesiders who debated politics and trained to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War – Carbeth Hutters – are about to make history. Nearing the end of three years to find £1.75 million to buy 98 acres of wooded, gently sloping land between the Kilpatrick Hills and the Campsies, ten miles from Glasgow and Clydebank, Carbeth Hutters are on the brink of handing over that huge sum of money to be in control of their own destiny: secure in the knowledge that in community hands there will be huts and breathing places for their children and grandchildren and all of Scotland’s children – welcome visitors all. The first community buy out in Central Scotland, giving Carbeth folk the right to breathe easy, never again to fear eviction or rent hikes.

Hutters are claiming that right and making news. We don’t live on the Carbeth land, we are not crofters nor do we live in rural places. We are however, trailblazing the right to enjoy our own Scottish land. If that means we need to buy it, then we’ll buy it.

£1.75 million is a lot of money. We have raised a lot, but need more. On 10th November, Carbeth folk will be walking the old Hutters Trail over the Kilpatrick Hills from Faifley by Clydebank. This is the trail that hutters walked in the 1940s to escape the Clydebank blitz. The trail that’s still used today to get to Carbeth.

It’s a fundraising hike, yes (and your sponsorship would be gratefully accepted), but it’s also a celebration of the spirit of those old hutters, who took a day’s heavy work in the yards then tramped over the hills to be with families sheltering in wooden huts from bombs; that same spirit that took on a landowner and the Scottish courts, who struck and stuck it for 13 years to retain their rights to claim what should be taken for granted: the right to breathe, the right to light a fire, the right to discuss, debate and dance without duress or pressure of being told to leave the land.

You can read more of the story at Carbeth Huts website and at the Hutters facebook page. See also a recent Herald article.  If you would like to sponsor the Hutters Hike on 10th November, there’s a PayPal button on the website; if you’d like sponsor an individual to walk, or just to walk with us, please get in touch via [email protected] or [email protected]

If you’d like to visit Carbeth at any time, you’ll be made welcome.

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  1. bellacaledonia says:

    Totally inspiring on so many levels.

  2. AnElephantCant help but agree that land ownership is perhaps Scotland’s greatest shame and scandal. The spirit of the Hutters is inspirational, as befits their legacy.

  3. Dougie says:

    Great stuff, although it really really makes my blood boil that the landowner is demanding such a large sum for the land – esp. when you consider the decades of rent payments they’ve enjoyed (stomps off to swear and kick the bin). Not only that, but the land would be worth nothing like that amount if it was just bare woodland. It’s the hutters that have added the value to the place (aaaargghhhh).

    Can we not have the revolution now, please?

    kick the bin

  4. martinthorpe says:

    Scotland’s underclass share a plight for all intents and purposes little different to that of most Native Americans. Locked into urban reservations with little or no prospect of a meaningful life the ensuing industrial scale alcohol and drug abuse is in fact merely a rational response to circumstance. A vital part of de-monetising the economy in response to it’s increasing capitalisation (and thus systematic and permanent unemployment) will be to create a direct link between the people and their land, by which I mean the vast estates currently held by a few aristocratic and commercial landowners be nationalised and then parcelled out to individuals.

    The exact details are open to debate but the underlying principle is that of encouraging self reliance and active citizenship through direct ownership. What people do with their “plots” will largely be up to them – if they wish to build second homes assist them with government backed block purchasing of materials and access to at cost advice and machinery – a similar assisted self-build approach could also be used to replace the current appalling housing stock in most of urban Scotland. Ditto if they wish to farm or fish. Now for some this proposal will appear a folksy distraction but I assure you it isn’t – the wage labour demand system is collapsing bringing with it reduced living standards and a declining tax base at the very time that demands on the social welfare budget are spiralling ever upwards. Labour and Tory administrations have tried to square this circle by a mixture of simply ignoring the problem, expanding the public payroll, work-fair (the family credit bill alone last year was upwards of 32 billion) asset (house) price inflation and all of it funded by utterly unsustainable private and public borrowing.

    This is a path to ruin (as we have at least in part seen) because it sees the current crisis as cyclical, rather than endemic. The Keynesian remedies offered by Paul Krugman and the rest of the classical economic fraternity are doomed to failure – just look at the case of Japan. No the answer (if there is one) lies in fundamentally orientating the economy (certainly at the nation state level) away from the paid employment = effective demand model and towards a new paradigm that aims to meet internal demand via non monetary production and exchange and only includes a paid labour constituent as a means of generating the revenues required for imports.

    One final thing, Salmond’s pronouncements on Scotland becoming a renewable Saudi Arabia are really dangerous. They are merely the latest in a long line of highly destructive national self delusions: Darien, Silicon Glen, Dolly the Sheep, North Sea oil, etc. Silver bullets that will in an instant solve all our problems and deliver us to the promised land. It’s no coincidence that the American West was “won” disproportionally by misty eyed celts. Borrowing on a epic scale to fund Ozymandias type schemes like those being proposed (the economics of which would disappear in an instant when (not if) fusion and/or super-conducting solar from the Sahara come on stream) is sheer folly and will merely lead to default and/or lumbering future generations with unsustainable debt.

    Scots have to accept the unpalatable truth that theirs is a relatively poor country on the northern fringe of an economically declining continent. Cutting ones cloth therefore isn’t just prudent its essential.

    1. rya says:

      Cool story bro.

  5. Irene Brown says:

    Hi Gerry
    This is great news and what a fine article spelling out the Hutters’ history. More power to you! Will be there in spirit.

  6. Graham says:

    How do ordinary people from the surrounding areas get access to Carbeth huts these days? I was told last year that huts are changing hands at around £50k and plots at £30k. I live in Clydebank, I have been walking the Kilpatricks and the land around Carbeth since I left school 30 years ago (when a hut was a few hundred quid) and have witnessed the changing demographic over that time. Most of today’s hutters would struggle to find the well-marked West Highland Way footpath nearby.

    1. Smithy says:

      My working class great aunt and uncle from the Kingston area of Glasgow were one of the original hutters. They had a hut for many years. I don’t know what happened to it. But I’ve been saying for ages this is now well out the range of most working class people. I’m a local person and there’s no way I’ve anywhere rear the resources to access these huts, or even get there now since public transport is virtually non existent. That said, best of luck to the current Community 🙂 I guess a buyout is a move in the right direction.

    2. gerry loose says:

      come along on the first Sunday of any month to an open meeting at the community hut at 1pm: the figures you quote are at least ten times more than we ask – don’t pay attention to hearsay – get it from the horse’s mouth! As for struggling to find the WHWay – I can assure you that hutters know the place like the back of their hands!

    3. gerry loose says:

      come along on the first Sunday of any month to an open meeting at the community hut at 1pm: the figures you quote are at least ten times more than we ask – don’t pay attention to hearsay – get it from the horse’s mouth! As for struggling to find the WHWay – I can assure you that hutters know the place like the back of their hands!

    4. gerry loose says:

      sorry – something odd happened – Graham – please see my response below Smithy’s comment below yours – it just went to the wrong place (twice) and by the way all hutters are “ordinary people” . . .

    5. gerry loose says:

      my replies are all going to the wrong place!

      1. gerry loose says:

        last time: one of our huts changed hands recently for £4,000. In quoting the figures above – they have nothing at all to do with Carbeth Hutters! No idea where you got those figures – they are completely inaccurate.

  7. Barontorc says:

    Wonderful place we had a hut there from 1954 to 1961. Best of luck to them, keep it going!

  8. I write this cooped up on a top floor Tenement in Maryhill on a scorching day and would do anything for a hut in this beautiful paradise!

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